Edfringe 2018 Review: The Marilyn Conspiracy

The Marilyn Conspiracy
Rating: ★★★

Venue: Assembly George Square Studios - One

Vicki McKellar and Guy Masterson’s new play, The Marilyn Conspiracy takes us back to the fateful night of August 5th 1962 where cinematic icon, Marilyn Monroe, was found dead. Masterson also directs this tense piece which examines the doubt surrounding Monroe’s death and attempts to shed some light on the six hours between when Monroe's body was found until the police were called.

Seven people are gathered at Marilyn Monroe’s house after she has been found dead. Marilyn’s press secretary Pat Newcomb (Susie Amy), The Rat Pack’s Peter Lawford (Oliver Farnworth), Lawford’s wife and sister to the Kennedys (Vicki McKellar), housekeeper Eunice Murray (Sally Mortemore), Marilyn’s psychiatrist Dr Ralph Greenson (Gavin Robertson), Greenson’s wife (Angela Bull), and Dr Hyman Engelberg (here played by Masterson). The group examine the circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s death whilst paranoia about how their own involvement in this situation could be catastrophic for each of them begins to spread.

McKellar was inspired by books ‘The Men Who Murdered Marilyn’ and ‘The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe’ which led to her own research paper, Marilyn – Her Final Days. This paper was adapted with Masterson into the play which premieres at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The doubt found in the word ‘apparent’ attached to Marilyn’s suicide makes magnificent dramatic fare here and the result is an enthralling single-room drama that centres on raw human emotion, paranoia and power/control. McKellar and Masterson’s play opens with a simple premise, Marilyn has been found dead and the police should be called, yet this layered dramatic piece snowballs, building the
 situation to a pressure cooker environment. Characters that initially seem logical or compassionate are skewed as a web of complication, tangled details and mismatched timings wrap their way around events. 

The Marilyn Conspiracy
also interestingly taps into the nature of pack mentality as we see Lawford’s Machiavellian puppet master attempt to influence and control the situation. This is enhanced by a standout performance from Oliver Farnworth who casts an uneasiness over the proceedings, whilst Susie Amy’s excellent turn as Pat Newcomb presents the opposing side driven by truth. The skilled performances of the entire cast shine thanks to a well-researched narrative which attempts to leave no stone unturned – each character has their own logical investment in the case, their own various futures at stake by potential scandal. This intoxicating melting point of grief, shame, fear and guilt makes stellar dramatic material for the performers to revel in and ensures that audiences are sufficiently gripped.

The multitude of timings and facts barked out during the production can create an air of confusion as we the audience attempt to piece chronology together ourselves, but this seems to be an intended move by the writers to capture the lack of clarity and contradictions surrounding the blonde bombshell’s death.

Whether you will be convinced by The Marilyn Conspiracy’s depiction of the mysterious events of August 5th is another matter, but it is hard to argue that McKellar and Masterson create rich dramatic fare in exploring it. The Marilyn Conspiracy is an undeniable treat that shines through its raw exploration of grief, doubt and self-preservation.
Theatre Review 7155259618964514470
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