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

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BPREVIEW: Dead! @ The Flapper 31.01.18

Dead! @ The Flapper 31.01.18

Words by Aatish Ramchurn

As part of their The Golden Age Live tour, Dead! will be playing at The Flapper on Wednesday 31st January. Main support for the night (and most of the tour) comes from London punk trio, Kenneths – with Birmingham based bands, A Promise to Forget and Blank Parody also playing at The Flapper.

Tickets are priced at £8 (adv) plus booking fee, as presented by Surprise You’re Dead! Music. Doors open at The Flapper from 7pm. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

London rock band, Dead!, are no strangers to Birmingham’s music scene, having previously played at Alfie Birds, Scruffy Murphy’s, Subside, and the O2 Institute where they recently supported Deaf Havana. Wednesday 31st January will see them tick off The Flapper from the list of stages they have played in Birmingham, bringing the threatened music venue their own flavour of the punk and indie sound.

Touring the UK relentlessly since 2012, band members Alex Mountford, Sam Matlock, Louis Matlock, and Sam Chappell all met in Southampton, initially booking local shows themselves. But as Dead! began reaching a wider audience, playing shows up and down the UK, their excessive touring schedule eventually paid off and their popularity rose.

Having signed to Infectious Music/BMG and Rise Records in the USA, not bad for a band who have been described as ‘everything that’s wrong with art’, Dead! are kicking off the New Year with another mammoth tour of the UK – on the road promoting their recently released debut album, The Golden Age of Not Even Trying.

Indeed, 2018 could be a great year for Dead! as they reach out to new audiences whilst reacquainting themselves with older ones. Especially as they’ve been tipped by Kerrang! Magazine as one of their Hottest Bands of 2018.

‘The Golden Age of Not Even Trying’ – Dead!

For more on Dead! visit

For more on Kenneths, visit

For more on A Promise to Forget, visit

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For more on The Flapper, visit

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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