York Evening Press
After 1998’s high-flying Amy Johnson, the detection work of Marlowe, Meet Raymond Chandler and the trawling tale of Fighting The Tide, Bramley has taken on another subject with history and mystery in equal measure: Marilyn Monroe. This is her biggest challenge with the biggest budget so far – £21,000 in project funding – as Bramley looks anew at “the most famous movie star of all time, the most famous woman on earth”. She picks up the Marilyn story at its crescent in the early 1950s, and follows her through a decade in which she would marry sporting hero Joe DiMaggio (not seen in the play) and playwright Arthur Miller (one of four characterisations taken on by Patrick Poletti, along with Clark Gable, both imagined and real, and Jack Kennedy). We also see Jane Russell (Cristina Gavin), confident, composed and chic, as she and Marilyn work on a dance routine for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It is late, Marilyn (Gilly Cohen) is desperately concerned to get it right, and even then, her coach would be turning up later still. That is a typical vignette from Bramley’s portrait, an affectionate, admiring work that seeks to balance the tragic vulnerability and rising neuroses with the burning brightness of a starlet who read James Joyce’s Ulysses and Edgar Allan Poe, knew her politics (and not only through bedroom intimacy with the Kennedys) but struggled with demons and pills. That struggle is depicted as both external and internal: Marilyn’s intelligence had to break through the `dumb blonde’ barrier and her fight for recognition as a serious actress was as much undermined by her own doubts as blonde prejudice. At the core of Still Marilyn – and part of the reason for that Still Marilyn title along with a search for stillness and a sense of her abiding allure beyond death – is a developing relationship with a young female photographer, Mia (Gavin again). The most precious insights into her private life come in these scenes, the camera constantly on her as always, with a wall of mirrors – an echo of 1953’s How To Marry A Millionaire in Ruth Paton’s set – as her other regular companion. The angular Gilly Cohen may not look like Marilyn but she moves, talks and emotes like her, still Marilyn indeed.
Charles Hutchinson, York Evening Press