The Marilyn Conspiracy, Assembly George Square Studios, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Theatre Tours International Limited
Guy Masterson and Vicki McKellar (writers), Guy Masterson (director), Sarah June Mills (set & costume design),
Susie Amy (Pat Newcomb), Oliver Farworth (Peter Lawford), Vicki McKellar (Patricia Kennedy-Lawford), Sally Mortemore (Eunice Murray), Gavin Robertson (Dr. Greenson), Angela Bull (Hildi Greenson), Guy Masterson (Dr. Engelberg).
Running time

New York Times: “Hollywood, Calif., Aug. 5, 1962 -- Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous stars in Hollywood's history, was found dead early today in the bedroom of her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. She was 36 years old. Beside the bed was an empty bottle that had contained sleeping pills. arm was stretched across the bed and a hand hung limp on a telephone. The Police were called at 4.20am. Inspector Edward Walker said, "So far as the doctors were concerned, there was no evidence of crime."

Following the post-mortem by the Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the cause of death was “probable suicide”. It was believed likely that Monroe was driven to despair after the abrupt end of her love affair with President Kennedy. Less than three months earlier on May 19th she had sung "Happy Birthday, Mr President" at Madison Square Garden after which she never saw him again. What actually happened on that last day and evening of Marilyn Monroe's life is still shrouded in mystery.

The setting is the lounge of Marilyn’s bungalow, with modest, modern design & decor - rattan wicker sofa and chairs dressed with gold velvet cushions, a lamp, Art books, coffee table, telephone. An open door leads to the bedroom where her cold, blue-tinged body is lying, Rigor Mortis has not yet set in. The time is around 1am on Sunday 5th August.

Three men and four women slowly enter the room to take a seat or stand at the side, with an expression of shock on each face. They are Marilyn’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, Dr Ralph Greenson, her psychiatrist and his wife Hildi, Dr. Engelberg, her medical doctor, the actor Peter Lawford, his wife, Patricia Kennedy-Lawford, (a sister of Jack and Bobby Kennedy), and her Press Secretary, Pat Newcomb,

Like Mrs White, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum et al, in the board game, Cluedo, they wait at the side until one makes the first move. With a loud shriek, Pat breaks the silence, “What happened?” she demands to know. Dressed in silk pyjamas and hair in a tousled ponytail, she is the most emotionally upset, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. The bare, basic facts are revealed about Eunice finding Marilyn collapsed in the Guest house on Saturday evening about 10.30pm. Dr. Greenson rushed over to administer adrenaline and despite CPR by paramedics she passed away within an hour.

Looking as if he just stepped off a yacht in a navy polo and white chinos, Peter appears to take control of the situation with a sly, sycophantic smile. As if this is a social occasion, he calmly opens a bottle of champagne, “ No, don’t call the police” he says firmly, “we have to discuss how to release the news”.

And so a fierce round of questioning begins with each person put in the spotlight as on trial: Dr. Greenson describes her mental state, Dr Engelberg confirms a prescription for Nembutal sleeping pills, Eunice admits that Bobby Kennedy had visited the house that afternoon. “I never did like the Kennedys,” murmurs Hildi which infuriates the glamorous Patricia in her slim red dress, looking annoyed that she had to leave a party to come here. Pat is almost hysterical, saying that Marilyn was not suicidal but happy, and just signed a two picture deal.

With the audience sitting just a few feet away, we feel we are there in the room, eavesdropping every word, every lie, watching every glance and gesture: Peter’s increased panic in his voice, Dr Engelberg’s gradual state of nervousness and sweating brow, shifting in his chair, Dr. Greenson, is getting confused about what he saw, what he did, while Eunice, sits with her head in hands, shaking with despair and fear. Who, why, when .. a volley of accusations ricochot like bullets around the chilling atmosphere. It is all so utterly realistic.

With precise period designs, and immaculate, mannered performances all round, the cool, crisp action is gracefully choreographed by Guy Masterson, as the tension rises and the time ticks on towards 4.20am.

The real life scenario surrounding Marilyn's death is conceived like a typical Agatha Christie novel in which the group of murder suspects is gathered in a drawing room for the final denouement, masterminded by Hercule Poirot before he reaches his conclusion and names the culprit.

This is the world premiere of a bold, breathtaking, compelling crime drama, in which these seven friends, seven witnesses, seven suspects are brought together to admit the unbelievable truth. Fact is far stranger and shocking than fiction.

Show times
2 – 27 August, (not 13th), @ 13.45
Ticket prices: £15 (£13), £18 (£14) selected dates
Age guidance: 12 +