Scarlett Johansson – hero of multiple Marvel blockbusters, star of Lost in Translation, and (unexpected) cover artist of Tom Waits’ top hits – is coming to the Edinburgh Fringe.
Well, let me rephrase. Due to legal reasons, Chris Grace has to make it clear from the get-go that THE Scarlett Johansson will not be making an appearance in Assembly Studio Five (which, Grace reveals to us, is apparently where Hannah Gadsby first premiered ‘Nanette’. No biggie). Instead, Grace will be performing a tribute to her, tracing Johansson’s career from the mid-1990s to the present day.
Grace uses interpretive dance and stand-up to touch on the various high and low points throughout Johansson’s career (did you know that she was in We Bought A Zoo? Yeah, me neither), weaving in various digressions about Asian-American identity and the nature of being a Person of Colour in Hollywood. He adds more and more layers to the performance, crafting an increasingly complex meta-commentary in which he portrays Johansson portraying himself portraying Johansson; it’s equal parts hilarious and sobering to see his life through the perspective of a white person – and by extension a white audience – complete with gongs and Tai Chi-adjacent moves. Because fundamentally, this isn’t a hit-piece against Johansson specifically – it goes much deeper than that.
Grace effectively balances levity with genuinely thought-provoking questions about who can portray whom onscreen (and off it) – in one particularly moving scene, he recounts a dream he had where he’s performing the show while wearing a Peking opera mask he can’t remove – a metaphor for the tension between performing Asian-ness for us and authentically experiencing his own identity.
Gradually, these doubts become more and more intrusive – in the denouement, Grace arguing with a voiceover version of himself about whether ‘Chris Grace’ even exists outside of the show. It’s intense, necessary watching; but even at its most serious, ‘As Scarlett Johansson’ still manages to find humour in the existential.
‘As Scarlett Johansson’ has finished its run