Hello Norma Jeane Review  

Park Theatre  23 February – 19 March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Truth or fantasy?

Lynnie is holed up in a cheap Hollywood motel after running away from her Essex nursing home. When her gay grandson Joe arrives to take her home, she reveals her secret. Lynnie is, in fact, Marilyn Monroe. She faked her death and fled to Essex, but now, in 2003, the world needs her again. Lynnie sets Joe on a quest to find 4 proofs of her story, hidden around Hollywood, before she reveals herself to the public. Joe’s responses sway back and forth from disbelief to complete faith in Lynnie’s story, and the audience is kept guessing too. Joe’s imaginary friend – the young Marilyn – is along for the ride, voicing everyone’s doubts and disbelief, while Joe begins to imagine a new life of privilege as Marilyn Monroe’s grandson.

Dylan Costello has written a beautifully emotional play, with every character, real and imaginary, yearning to be loved for who they are . Trying to sort fact from fiction in a town built on fantasies, reinventions and fickle fame gives all the plot twists and machinations an extra dimension, and the melodrama mixes coherently with lots of fantastic funny lines and ludicrous situations, making for a satisfying and heartwarming whole.

Vicki Michelle is in fine form as Lynnie. Despite a few stumbles over lines, she gives a wonderfully measured performance, full of spark and humour, but tinged with regret and hints of dementia. Jamie Hutchins gives a charmingly physical performance as Joe, portraying the frustration of dealing with a dotty old lady, and his moments of despair brilliantly. It is hard to play an icon, so Farrel Hegarty wisely avoids an impersonation, instead giving Marilyn a breathlessly nagging and sarcastic edge, which is perfect for Joe’s mindset. Her American TV host is a triumph, all the fake sincerity in glances to camera and dramatic pauses. Peter McPherson as Bobby manages to strip away the layers of bravado as his scenes progress, finally showing us the lost soul underneath with a gentleness that is in stark contrast to his early histrionics. He also takes his shirt off. Which is nice.

One character admits that “Pretending to be someone else is quite addictive.”

And so is watching performances and writing of this quality and soul