This adaptation of Susie Boyt’s memoir is disjointed and chaotic, but fantastic fun.
‘The desire to create something profound out of something seemingly superficial makes for an extremely strange but rather wonderful undertaking. The book defies definition. It has elements of biography, autobiography, self-help and fan letter; although it’s firmly non fiction, there are parts that read like a novel. Above all, it is a bold experiment that sets out to map the boundaries of celebrity obsession, and somewhere along the way discovers what it means to be human… beautiful, heart-stopping writing.’ This is The Observer’s Viv Groskop’s review of Susie Boyt’s 2008 memoir, My Judy Garland Life. Now the memoir has been adapted for the stage and having read this review I was expecting amazing things.
The stage play adapted by Amanda Whittington is about Susie, a girl infatuated with Judy Garland. The story intertwines the complexities of both women’s lives using parallels to the tell the story of Judy Garland.
There’s no denying it’s chaotic; it jumps about a lot and is rather bewildering at times. Expect to be confused, especially in the first half, where something doesn’t sit quite right. But hang in the there. The second half is glitzy, glamorous, poignant, sensitive and so much fun.
There’s drugs, alcohol and lots of sparkle in the form of red shoes and a jazzed up piano. There’s laughter and tears, singing and dancing.
As the story of Garland’s life unravels, there’s an incredibly moving scene where she sits in the solace of a cabbies office in the early hours of the morning seeking friendship and normality only to be left feeling empty and lost.
Faye Elvin is great as the innocent novelist and journalist Susie entranced by her heroine, but Sally Ann Triplett as Judy Garland and Liza Minelli is simply fantastic. She steels the show with her spot on impersonations of both Judy and Liza.
Some things don’t work; for example the first half is confusing; I think Judy would have been better portrayed by a younger actor to depict the early part of her life.
The story is punctuated by video out-cuts of the general public voicing what Judy Garland means to them. I’m not sure this added much for me personally, but it’s a different concept and I guess it brings a new angle.
And the very end of the show was slightly anti-climatic but on reflection, that could have simply been the audience’s unwillingness to show their appreciation for what was essentially a compelling and brilliant performance from Triplett.
My Judy Garland Life runs at the Nottingham Playhouse until 15 February 2014. Tickets are priced between £7.50 – £27.50 and are available from the box office.
Cast: Sally Anne Triplett, Faye Elvin, Stefan Bednarczyk, Delroy Brown, William Oxborrow