Blackouts: Twilight of the Idols @ The Chelsea Theatre Review

There are thousands of actors and actresses who flock to the land that is Hollywood to pursue their silver screen dreams, however, there are only a select few who actually grasp that opportunity to showcase their talents to the world, experience a snapshot of fame, and rise the ranks to achieve ‘A List’ status. There are a handful of stars who have not only achieved legendary status, but have also transcended the cinematic medium with their spirits living on throughout generations.

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The questions is… what is it about these performers that not only equates to cinematic success, but also a sense of resonance with fans? In Dickie Beau‘s Blackouts, raw emotion meets the technological in this theatrical melting pot of a show. Beau channels the screen energies of much loved screen sirens such as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, reviving the cinematic intensity of the Golden Age. The female voice proudly adorns the evening, with snippets from journalist, Richard Meryman‘s last interview with the late and great Monroe. The result is chilling, yet refreshing. An actress the world has gone on to treasure lives on in the recordings of interviews such as these; her iconic smooth vocal tone flitters the theatre, inhabiting a steeliness juxtaposing with the fun loving persona usually attributed to the star. Meryman acts as narrator for the evening, his all American, welcoming tone contributes to the Hollywood convention of the voice over, the omnipresent being offering his opinion on events.

Blackouts itself prides itself on the selection of verbatim sound clips utilised throughout the evening. Beau doesn’t at all attempt to impersonate the stars featured in the performance, he instead employs the deceptively easy performance technique of lip synching in order to have the words once uttered by these stars live through him. Beau initially misses the mark with this, however absolutely runs with it wonderfully as the performance warms up.

Video projections, courtesy of Elod Beregszaszi box Beau magically into the Golden Age screen realm. Projections show both up and down stage, contrasting the idea of the fictional display on screen, and the reality of the human conditions with Beau’s performances. Beau places his heart and soul into this production, and it’s clear just how much respect he has for these female voices. Jan-willem van den Bosch directs a busy production with a conveyer belt of fun conventions, Beau however occasionally is lost behind the projections, with this taking centre stage momentarily. The narrative structurally is unconventional, the audience is lead through a labyrinth of treasured cinematic pieces, and the beginnings of looking at the truth behind our favourite female screen icons. This labyrinth however has plenty of ideas, and is quite compact. I’m left thinking that these could be the beginnings of other works. 3.5/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Blackouts: Twilight of the Idols is currently showing at the Chelsea Theatre as part of the SACRED Festival until Friday 13th November. For more information on the production, visit here…

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