Joanne Hartstone’s one-woman play about a wannabe Hollywood star has its moments but doesn’t quite deliver.
Like a fictional episode of the seriously good podcast You Must Remember This (which delves into the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood), The Girl Who Jumped off the Hollywood Sign is the story of a woman who was discarded by the brutal Hollywood industry before she could make it. Written by Adelaide’s Joanne Hartstone, the writer and actor plays Evie Edwards who we meet on top of the Hollywood sign contemplating a very final act in the late 1940s. Despite this, Edwards is at times awkwardly amusing as she tells the story of how she ended up on top of this landmark that – though originally an advertisement – now represents the hopes and dreams of many.
Raised by her father in Hooverville, Edwards explains how the pair eventually moved to Los Angeles where her dad, who drank and gambled, worked as a carpenter for the Hughes organisation. She gets a meaningless job as a messenger at MGM that allows her to work nights at the fabled Hollywood Canteen, which was run by Bette Davis and her pals to show that Hollywood was helping with the war effort.
But Edwards has bigger plans. She can sing. She wants to make it. Despite being talented, Edwards isn’t good looking enough and doesn’t possess the ‘it’ factor. This rejection leads her down a dark road.
The Girl who Jumped off the Hollywood Sign has the bones of a great show about hopes, dreams and the dark side to our fascination with celebrity culture. Hartstone is a talented actor, who also has a decent set of lungs, as the show is littered with songs like a classic MGM musical, but you can’t really connect with Edwards. She, like a female protagonist in a ‘40s musical, is too innocent and naïve (this could be intentional to mirror the films of the time) before turning very quickly down a path that isn’t so innocent. This naiveté works in old musicals but just doesn’t quite connect in a contemporary play about an industry that can be heartlessly cruel.
The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign was performed at the Noel Lothian Hall on Wednesday, March 15 and continues there until Sunday, March 19