Bette and Joan, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. On until tomorrow (Saturday). Box office 024 7655 3055.
FOR me this play relied far too much on an intimate knowledge of the films of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. And apart from film buffs and the over 70s, few people would have that.
Not that Greta Scacchi and Anita Dobson don’t do a fine job of portraying the two actresses during the 1962 filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
It has to be said Greta, who plays Bette, has most of the best lines. But Anita reveals a wasp-like waist and the most astonishing figure of a woman 40 years younger.
They sit in twin dressing rooms from which it becomes clear multi-Oscar nominated Bette has always thought herself the superior, true actress, whilst Joan, who picked up the odd gong, was simply a movie star.
Apparently, the story of Joan getting her revenge for past slights by wearing a weighted belt for the scene when Bette has to lift her unconscious figure across the set is well known - although not to me.
Both actresses bitch throughout the night, Bette with aggressive candour, Joan with velvety malice.
But the theatre programme has brilliant photographs of the real-life glamour of both women and I wasn’t the only member of the audience to wish they’d livened up the action with a few film or premier-attending sequence clips on an overhead projector.
Anita Dobson’s drawl was engaging, if slow, and Greta’s spice was fun to hear. But despite the three or four curtain calls, there was something vaguely sophorific about the whole thing.
Verdict: Fun, though not quite enough pizazz.
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