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PHILIP KEY ARTS DIARY: THEATRE: The off-screen melodrama that was Marilyn Monroe.

Byline: Philip Key

All That Loving Stuff Chester Gateway

OF ALL the roles she played in her career, none was more compelling than that which Marilyn Monroe played off-screen.

Her life was like a melodrama and her death, 40 years ago in 1962, the stuff of a detective novel.

All this is made apparent in Harry MacDonald's new play All That Living Stuff in which he covers practically every aspect of the Monroe legend.

At the heart of it is Monroe's death of a barbiturates overdose, officially a suspected suicide but thought by many to be murder.

The play opens with Monroe lying dead and the cop who found her, Jack Clemmens, explaining just why he was not satisfied with the official verdict and spent his retirement investigating.

That neatly provides an excuse to follow Monroe's career from her birth as Norma Jean Mortenson to superstardom.

MacDonald is able to tackle the multi-layered story with just two actors, Eva Gray as Marilyn and MacDonald himself playing Clemmens and a host of other characters in her story.

It is expertly constructed, the narrative line clear, the drama always compelling.

Much depends on the actress playing Marilyn and Eva Gray does a superb job, moving easily from the frightened young girl moved around foster homes and into an orphanage to the adult she became, a star but still frightened of many things. The role requires an intense concentration and Gray does not miss a trick.

And MacDonald, while patently too old for many of his characters, tackles them with both humour - his Laurence Olivier is a hoot - and serious intent.

The set is minimalist, little more than a couch and a screen, but it is enough for a story which is about character rather than action.

The Monroe seen here, abused, desperate, keen to please and ultimately vulnerable, is very believable and understandable.

But was her death murder? The play gives no positive solution but does point the finger accusingly at the Kennedy clan.

CAPTION(S):

SUPERB: Eva Gray as Monroe
COPYRIGHT 2002 MGN Ltd.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 14, 2002
Words:339
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