Judy, Judy Garland
The show begins with a black and white newsreel film of 1920s/30s New York to set the scene. It all seems quite promising. But then an ensemble of seven girls, dressed curiously in black T shirts and trousers, charge about the stage in a fast-paced sequence of monologues and dramatised sketches as they attempt to tell the story of Judy Garland's life and tragic death. The emphasis is on the drugs she had to take for energy and weight loss rather than on the films and singing career.
There is a surprising lack of music. The cast do not sing. Instead there are brief snatches of The Trolley Song and Over the Rainbow which fades out after 10 seconds of orchestral bars just as the lyrics kick in. The narrative is confusingly disjointed and clumsy. Without costumes, set, musical numbers or images on the backdrop screen (as at the start), there's no sense of time, place or biographical thread covering key dates, events or people in her life. Instead, it's a mish mash of scenes covering childhood, film set shoots, marriages, and her slow decline as a musical star. The only image of Judy is on the programme cover.
After 35 minutes, the cast come on in silence holding a newspaper announcing Judy's suicide. It is a shocking image but could be far, far stronger with brief narrative to explain her age (47) when her death shocked the world. Why not mention the details of her funeral paid for by Sinatra, attended by every leading Hollywood star with 5,000 fans standing outside?. But at the end of the play, this heartbreaking moment is evaporated in an instant when the cast suddenly shout that Garland is dead but "a new star is born, Marilyn Monroe", followed by a cacophony of screaming voices. I don't know what they were saying. In fact, Judy Garland died in 1967, by which time Marilyn Monroe had been dead for five years.
A photo of Marilyn then appears on the backdrop and one of her songs plays as the audience wander out, probably feeling rather confused. This was a ludicrous, inconsequential and tasteless final scene. What has Marilyn got to do with the story and why should she have the last word in a show entitled, "Judy, Judy Garland".? According to the programme notes, GHS theatre company is a group of 18 year old A level students "all passionate about drama". "Judy, Judy Garland" is their amateur debut on the Fringe. And it shows. As a school workshop in learning dramatic skills, OK, but as a Fringe show for the paying public, no, no, no.
PS Interestingly the cast do not list their names in the programme nor on the website so I cannot name the actors, writer or director. I think perhaps they are wise to remain incognito.
Show times: 11.30am, 11-13 August