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EdFringe 2018 Review: James Dean Is Dead! (Long Live James Dean)

James Dean Is Dead! (Long Live James Dean)
★★
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Opening with the body of James Dean lying on stage, the victim of the Porsche 550 Spyder crash that killed him, he reflects on his short life and the exploitative norms within the film industry that adored him. James Dean Is Dead! (Long Live James Dean) sees Kit Edwards take the title role in a script by the late Jackie Skarvellis, which is directed by Peter Darney. 

Like many of the Hollywood-centred plays running at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, James Dean Is Dead! similarly has its finger on the pulse of the #MeToo movement. In taking our story back to Dean's cinematic career in the mid-fifties, there is an unsettling familiarity which suggests that these scandals have rumbled throughout Hollywood for decades. Yet Dean here is a sexed-up young man with a sexual-fluidity and subsequently he recounts his experiences at the hands of Hollywood execs with a unsettling blaseness. This is an expected part of the business and those playing the game approach it with a sad normality.

Yet James Dean is Dead! does an excellent job at capturing the complex dichotomy of Dean as someone put through this exploitative Hollywood wringer - yet also his vigour as an incredibly sexual young male (in a consensual sense). This helps craft the production's Dean as one incredibly in-tune with his sexuality, almost in a hedonistic fashion who lives his life in the rebellious manner his characters from Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant were famed for. It's also refreshing to see a depiction of Dean's life that does not shy away from his sexual encounters with men, instead celebrating him as an iconic figure totally at ease with his sexuality.

Kit Edwards' impressive performance grounds these themes of sexuality and power and control, whilst attempting to incorporate Dean's sense of bravado and joy de vivre. He certainly looks the part in his white t-shirt, Levi 101s and crimson bomber jacket.

James Dean Is Dead! (Long Live James Dean) may feel like it circles several of the same themes throughout its fifty-five minute runtime, but thanks to a strong central performance and some prescient social undercurrents it is worth your time.
Theatre Review 6545603109997497566
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