Presented by: Joanne Hartstone
Reviewed: 10 March 2017
Hollywood is filled with tales of woe. Since its inception, it has been a hotbed of sex, scandal and violence. Broken dreams and shattered lives have littered its golden-hued path with many famous faces falling victim to its appeal. Whilst that’s a less than flattering picture of ‘Tinseltown’, it’s the hard truth that has fascinated and appalled people in equal measures. Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and scores of others have been chewed up and spat out of America’s cinematic dream factory. Their stories have become legendary with their tantrums, tears and tiaras on full display for public edification. Proving that Hollywood enjoys looking into itself, Sunset Boulevard and The Player have given their own bleak views.
Now comes The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign, the work of multi-talented performer Joanne Hartstone. Portraying an actress who is standing on top of the ‘H’ in the famous Hollywood sign, it’s a play about the typical quest for fame countless people have over the decades. Some may have heard whispers of past movie scandals, which this show deliciously serves up. Ever since it was created in 1923, the Hollywood sign has been a beacon of hope for aspiring performers searching for their ‘big break’. Some have gotten it, while many others haven’t. One of them was Peg Entwistle who jumped off the ‘H’ in the sign in 1932. Based around that scenario, The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign explores a fictional actress in the same predicament. At the end of her emotional tether, Hartstone’s character charts her journey from wide-eyed innocent to jaded cynic.
What follows is an hour of personal highs and lows of her journey with a smattering of tunes from Judy Garland and others. These songs deftly conjure the mixed emotions she has with Hartstone delivering a sympathetic performance. To go into further detail would spoil things, but the play almost becomes a live-action version of the infamous Kenneth Anger book Hollywood Babylon. Filled with a smattering of gossip of fallen idols and dubious industry practices, it’s hardly a rosy picture of L.A.’s most famous allure. But within them hide morality tales of wanting something so desperately that it ultimately can destroy you. Hartstone reflects this desperation well with her versatility in full flight. Switching between songs and performance, she is strong at both, always remembering to infuse genuine emotion throughout.
The simple staging works, with the top half of the ‘H’ signage the main prop. The play is all about the character and depth of her feelings rather than any elaborate prop. The lighting also compliments this simplicity with the various colours reflecting the multiple ranges of sensations the character goes through. The audience appreciated the songs and particularly the small dance routines which were well done. Hartstone certainly puts all into her performance, with the energy and tenacity in presenting an interesting slice of early Hollywood life evident.
The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign should be of interest to anyone who is a fan of the inner machinations of the Hollywood machine. The stories aired are ones that could easily be transplanted to today. While the old-time studio bosses may be gone, their words and actions still ring true with history always repeating in a land where dreams can instantly be broken or come true.
Reviewed by: Patrick Moore
Rating out of 5: 4
Venue: Adelaide Botanic Garden – Noel Lothian Hall
Season: 8 – 19 March 2017
Duration: 2 hrs.
Tickets: Full Price – $26.00, Concession – $22.00
Bookings: Book online at www.bass.net.au or phone BASS on 131 246