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The Marilyn Conspiracy

5
Seen at the Park Theatre
By Robert Iles - 28th Jun 2024

The life, and particularly the death, of Marilyn Monroe has always fascinated the public. Although reported as a suicide, I'm not sure I've ever talked to anyone about it who did not believe that it was 'more complicated than that' - from mis-reported accidental death to wild murder conspiracy theories.

Whilst we will never know the truth of what happened unwitnessed behind closed doors, we are not entirely without facts. The question is, can we construct a story that makes sense of what we can't know from what we do know. The answer is yes, we can, and this play does. Played in the round this is cleverly staged to ensure that everyone gets a good view with a revolve that also, subtly, helps keep track of the timeline. In fact it is the timeline that is being reconstructed for us here to offer us an insight into that terrible day.

Set in period by the music, the underlying soundtrack and costuming this is a beautifully crafted piece. It could have descended into a lecture given the amount of information that has to be passed on but just as you think its going to get too wordy we switch between the present and the past and get pulled back into the characters. Actually, it is the feeling of being reeled in to this world that caught me; the close stage, tight direction, credible characterisation (difficult for a character we know so well from her films) and mounting tension really grabs your attention.

The political context of the events of that night, which really dictated the outcome, might not all be as familiar to a younger audience as they are to those who lived through the times, but they are crucial to understanding the conspiracy. I don't know if more should be said in the play about this, or it should be said earlier, probably we should just trust to the intelligence of the audience as is done here. A film star affair with the President and Attorney General, a pregnancy, whispered state secrets and a potentially damaging diary would have been a very dangerous "pebble" to throw into the turbulent world pond that existed at the time - the ripples might well have released tsunamis!

A tribute to the play, and to this production, is that level of conversation that followed with my fellow audience members and the fact that I dipped back into the original LA Times Obituary (QR codes in the foyer!) as part of re-acquainting myself with the state of the world and the USA at the time. The research in the writing, care taken in direction and the great acting team made for a night I shall ponder for a long time.


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