BREVIEW: The Late Marilyn Monroe @ The Blue Orange Theatre 30.01.02

The Late Marilyn Monroe @ The Blue Orange Theatre 30.01.02Words by Charlotte Heap

Premiering at The Blue Orange Theatre, Darren Haywood’s play, The Late Marilyn Monroe, tells the tale of the famous blonde bombshell’s untimely death in 1962. Arguably one of the world’s favourite film stars, Monroe’s shock demise at 36 combined with her high octane life (rumoured to include an affair with the president) immortalised her celebrity.

Like most, I’m familiar with Monroe’s image, life and the conspiracies around her death but The Late Marilyn Monroe and Taking Chances theatre group brought to voyeuristically vivid life Haywood’s version of her last hours. The audience is forced to watch Monroe, played with breathless confidence by Tania Staite, alternately vulnerable and raging as she consumes the huge quantities of barbiturates that ultimately lead to her overdose.

Set in Monroe’s bedroom, emphasising the claustrophobic chaos, Monroe is visited only by her housekeeper, paid assistant / friend, and her doctor in her last day. The staging is effective, although the shabby set is an issue: it may seem like a quibble but it rankled with me. Marilyn Monroe would not have had (badly) whitewashed walls.

Mrs Murray, charmingly played by Ellie Darvill, provides motherly care and much needed comic relief. Monroe’s loneliness is magnified through the use of the telephone (both lifeline and torturer) to frame the story of her last hours while Pat and Ralph (Dru Stephenson and Martin Rossen, friend and doctor respectively) offer little other than a soundboard for Marilyn’s monologues: both are ultimately ineffectual counsellors, and the doctor character in particular feels like a plot device, giving Monroe more sedatives before rushing out to dinner.

Haywood is a self-proclaimed fan of Monroe and the depth of his knowledge (and reverence) is shown through his script. Officially Monroe committed suicide, but Haywood nods to the best known theories (such as ‘Bobby’s’ – Robert Kennedy’s – involvement in Monroe’s evident mental distress) throughout the play: intelligently weaving references to fact and mythology to leave the audience asking whether Monroe was delusional or if dark forces were really out to get her. After all, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you.

The many challenges that faced Norma Jeane are articulated clearly, if at times heavy-handedly. Her beginnings in an orphanage, a stint in a mental institute, two failed marriages, studio troubles, her ‘scandalous’ nude modelling past, her various affairs with stars such as Sinatra, her battles with drug addiction, ageing, plastic surgery, and her casting couch experiences are all alluded to. Monroe’s ‘suicide’ (although Haywood favours the more palatable accidental overdose narrative) makes sense to the audience: this was a very troubled woman.

Trying to include all of Monroe’s many issues though means that The Late Marilyn Monroe misses a trick: there’s modern meaning, as the promotion promised, particularly pertinent in the climate of Hollywood’s #MeToo Campaign, but it feels tokenist and unexplored.

To me though, it mattered little. The Late Marilyn Monroe is a well-written tragedy, it doesn’t need to be a cautionary tale for #MeToo. It’s a familiar tale that Haywood and Taking Chances bring fresh feeling to; you know that Monroe is going to die, but right till the end you can’t help hoping that Haywood might have rewritten history.

For more on The Late Marilyn Monroe, visit

For more from Taking Chances, visit

For more from The Blue Orange Theatre, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

BPREVIEW: The Late Marilyn Monroe @ The Blue Orange Theatre 30.01-02.02.18

The Late Marilyn Monroe @ The Blue Orange Theatre 30.01-02.02.18Words by Charlotte Heap

The Late Marilyn Monroe tells the tale of the last hours of Hollywood’s most famous bombshell, running at The Blue Orange Theatre from Tuesday 30th January to Saturday 3rd February.

The show is scheduled for 7:45pm each evening, with a matinee performance at 3pm on Saturday 3rd February. Tickets are priced at £12 (standard) and £10 (concessions) – for direct show information and links to online ticket sales, click here. 

Birmingham based writer/actor, Darren Haywood, promises ‘this will not be the Marilyn you’ve seen before’, premiering his new production at the Great Hampton Street theatre with the Taking Chances theatre group.

Previously penning shows including Role Play, Head Girl and The Morning After – all produced by Taking Chances – Heywood has not shied away from the more subversive issues, even playing the title role in Taking Chances‘ production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Crescent Theatre back in 2011.

Monroe, arguably one of the world’s favourite film stars, died at just 36: her shock death combined with her high octane life (rumoured to include an affair with John F Kennedy) immortalised her celebrity, as well as creating a wealth of conspiracy theories. But despite the decades since her death in 1962 Monroe’s allure has persisted, even assisted by the mystery surrounding her premature demise.

The Late Marilyn Monroe presents the star’s final day, and an audience familiar only with Monroe’s glamorous persona may be surprised by the ‘reality’. Indeed the show’s promotion asks us ‘what really happened? And what was she like behind closed doors?’ But Haywood’s script seems certain to explore Monroe’s apparent battles with drug addiction, depression, and sexual exploitation, issues particularly pertinent in the climate of Hollywood’s #MeToo campaign.

And with such a well loved icon as the centre piece of the narrative, it will be interesting to see what fresh insight and modern meaning both Haywood and Taking Chances can bring to such a familiar tale.

The Late Marilyn Monroe runs at The Blue Orange Theatre from Tuesday 30th January to Saturday 3rd February – presented by Taking Chances. For direct show information and links to online ticket sales, visit                    

For more on The Late Marilyn Monroeclick here.

For more from Taking Chances, visit

For more from The Blue Orange Theatre, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

ED’S PICK: January 2018

Words by Ed King

January 1st… no finer day to cross off the calendar. But as the world crawls out of bed with hangovers and resolutions, Birmingham’s events diary looks forward to a pretty vibrant January. It seems the ‘quiet month’ is not so dormant this year. Which is a good thing, right? I mean, who needs to stay in and save money? Food and heating are for quitters.

Some pretty big gigs happening this month, with the rock powerhouse that is Paramore (ain’t alliteration ace) coming to the Genting Arena on Jan 14th. Tickets may be sold out by the time I finish this sentence, so you’d better act rápido por favor (just finished watching Narcos) if you want to catch them tour their fifth album, After Laughter, through the second city. On the Lord’s Day as well… dios nos perdone.

On the smaller stages in Birmingham, Surprise You’re Dead are tearing the city in two on 24th Jan – as Ohio’s metalcore Miss May I come to Mamma Roux’s, whilst London’s pop punksters The Bottom Line are joined by Nottingham’s Lacey at The Asylum. In fact, overall it’s quite a strong start to 2018 from SYD as the Birmingham’s stalwart rock/punk promoters are also bringing Dead! to The Flapper on 31st Jan and The Bronx to Mama Roux’s on 17th Jan – although The Bronx gig has already sold out so check the relevant corners of t’interweb for returns.

Elsewhere in the land of live gigs, we have the rising stars Riscas headlining an uber line up at The Sunflower Lounge on 19th Jan – with Spilt Milk Society, Candid and The Real Cool all in support. If this gig doesn’t sell out then I will 1) buy a hat, 2) eat my hat, 3) buy another hat. 2018 is set to be a big year for Riscas, we reckon, so catch them when and where you can. Then The Hunna return to the O2 Academy on 11th Jan, whilst Setting Son Records present Average Sex and Semantics (one of our faves) at the Hare & Hounds on 24th Jan.

Hot on the heels of their recent triumphant homecoming, KIOKO headline a stellar line up of local acts at The Crossing on 26th Jan – with Namiwa Jazz, Zara Sykes, VITAL, Elektric, and revered local poet Kurly all performing as part of the Love Music Hate Racism event at the Milk Street venue. Trish Clowes presents her latest album, My Iris, with a new ensemble of the same name at Eastside Jazz Club on 25th Jan. Whilst those somewhat silent psychedelics, Moon Duo, come back to the Hare & Hounds on 30th Jan courtesy of This Is Tmrw. Then there’s the gig I’m throwing my metaphor in the ring for – This is the Kit showcase their new album, Moonshine Freeze, at The Glee Club on 24th Jan.

January also sees a strong line up of comedy in the city, kicking off with Tina T’urner Tea Lady Steamy Bingo at The Old Joint Stock on 5th Jan. Tracey Collins will be bringing her ‘camp alter ego’ back to The Old Joint Stock in March, so if you miss your numbers this time around you can always try again in spring.

Stand up also starts strong at The Glee Club, with Andy Zaltzman bringing his Satirist for Hire tour to The Arcadian Centre venue on 19th Jan – a week before Fern Brady’s debut Suffer Fools tour lands there on 26th Jan. Quick tip, if either of these stand ups ask you to email in suggestions or comments… don’t. Or at least don’t sign your name. Or sit in the front row. You have been warned. Whilst over at the Town Hall, Ed Byrne brings his Spoiler Alert tour to Birmingham on 27th Jan – a room big enough for some safe anonymity, for the audience at least.

Theatre stamps a reassuringly eclectic foot down on the first month of 2018, with Outer Circle Arts presenting The Death Show at The Rep Door on 26th and 27th Jan. Whilst a stone’s throw behind them in Hockley, Blue Orange Theatre present The Late Marilyn Monroe – running from 30th Jan to 3rd Feb. Then over at The Patrick Centre is the somewhat less self-explanatory Translunar Paradise  – Ad Infinitum’s unspoken story ‘of life, death and enduring love’, presented at the Hurst Street venue for one night only on 31st Jan.

Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet present Swan Lake, also for one night only, at the Symphony Hall on 7th Jan. Whilst The Mockingbird continues to its mission to save The Custard Factory from the cultural abyss with a double screening of Clerks and the documentary behind Silent Bob’s directorial debut, Shooting Clerks, on 19th Jan. There will also be a Q&Q with the latter’s director, Christopher Downie, and some cast members at 9pm.

For more film, mac hosts Playback from 7th to 24th Jan – a touring and ‘interactive exhibition’ of over 200 short films from ‘krumping and parkour dance shorts, to an animated tale of teenage love that unearths our desire to be as cool as the zines we read’. Held in the arts centre’s First Floor Gallery, with free admission, Playback carries a Tubbs and Edward local angle too, as ‘some of the films were originally made in and around Birmingham, where young people based in the Midlands were given the support and funding to create a short film.’

Then rounding off Birmingham’s cultural cache for the New Year, The Chefs’ Forum present their ‘Pay What You Can’ lunch at University College Birmingham on 15th Jan – a networking, trade and showcase event with four courses from some of the city’s top restaurants. Having launched its Midlands’ agenda at UCB back in February this… sorry, last year, The Chefs’ Forum is hosting their Jan ‘18 lunch to raise funds and awareness for its Educational Foundation which supports young chefs across the UK.

And with Louisa Ellis (The Wilderness), Mark Walsh (Opus Restaurant), Luke Tipping and Leo Kattou (Simpsons) and Olivier Briault (The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel) all chipping in a course, it should do just that. Although, the non-fixed donation approach is gratefully received in mid January.

Now if I can just find an energy provider with the same approach…

**Also straddling this month and the next are the two rescheduled Lady Gaga concerts, as the uber-star kicks off the UK leg of her Joanna World Tour at Arena Birmingham on 31st January before returning to play the Genting Arena on 1st February. Tickets to both arena shows are priced at £48.50 (+ fees), as presented by Live Nation UK.

In memoriam of her paternal auntie and namesake, Lady Gaga’s latest song, album and tour appear as personal an affair as you can offer when delivering it to millions of strangers. A curious dichotomy, but one Birmingham will get to see on stage first as the Live Nation machine sets down in our city before anywhere else in the UK. Kudos.

And with tickets being transferred from the previous dates in October 2017, it’s fair to say there may be a bit of a bun fight to get in to these gigs. No doubt it’ll be worth a few scuffed elbows though, but even if ‘I’m never going to know you now, I’m gonna love you any how’. OX Joanne.

For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, for Lady Gaga at Arena Birmingham on 31st January, click here. For Lady Gaga at the Genting Arena on 1st February, click here.’

Tickets for the originally scheduled Lada Gaga shows at the Genting Arena (12th Oct ’17) at Arena Birmingham (15th Oct ’17) can be transferred to the new dates. According to the venues’ websites, ‘if you cannot make the new date, refunds can be obtained at your point of purchase for a limited period’.**

Playback @ mac 7th to 24th Jan

For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlink. 

Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview titles.