Marilyn Monroe died on August 5th 1962 of a supposed sleeping pill overdose but not everyone believes this to be true; several conspiracy theories surround the Hollywood icon’s death and one such conspiracy theorist is co-writer of this piece, Vicki McKellar, who also stars in the play.
McKellar admits long having a fascination with the life and death of Marilyn Monroe, reading everything she could get her hands on. It was this in-depth reading which lead her to combine her love of the American actress with her screenwriting, and over time, and in collaboration with director, Guy Masterson, produce, The Marilyn Conspiracy.
Seven people were present at Monroe’s house between the time of her death and several hours later when the police were eventually called. In this play the seven ‘characters’ are placed at the scene and the audience listen on as the ensuing conversations take place. Was it suicide or was it murder? And if it was murder, who killed Marilyn?
It is an edge-of-your-seat, gripping story and the audience are drawn in to Monroe’s living room setting and to the tangled web of information which comes to light over the 75 minutes. Much as people do when they watch a crime drama on television each character is constantly scrutinised, eyes moving round the scene noticing every nuance in a bid to try and work out what is happening.
It is a fascinating story and one which translates well to stage. Special mention should be made for Masterson standing in at the last minute as Dr Hyman Engelberg. If it hadn’t been mentioned at the beginning of the play nobody would have noticed, so assured and convincing was the performance.
Other notable performances come from Sally Mortemore as Mrs Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper, and Susie Amy as Pat Newcomb, PA and Secretary who was staying at Monroe’s house in her final days. Some performances, however, are a little wooden, the script in Peter Lawford’s (Oliver Farnworth) opening lines is not entirely convincing given where the character goes in the play and it would help the whole cast immensely if they could exit stage completely when required although one imagines this is more an issue with the space than a choice. But these are small things. The hope is to take the show on to the West End in London and on tour round the UK and on this Edinburgh Fringe showing it would surely be a success.