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Lizzie Wort talks to Rosy Moorhead about playing the movie icon in her one-woman show
Alone in her bedroom, in her dressing gown and slippers, no make-up on – and overdosed on pills, just an hour and a half away from the end of her life.
The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe is a one-woman show in which the ultimate screen legend is peeled back to reveal the real woman’s thoughts on her life and relationships, revealing a biting intelligence, a frustrated talent and an imperfect body.
“It’s Marilyn as you’ve not seen her before,“ says actor Lizzie Wort, “it’s an interpretation of her at her most candid. It’s an opportunity for people to see a different Marilyn – the real Marilyn – that wasn’t always presented in the press when she was alive.“
The play is written and directed by Elton Townend Jones and Lizzie describes it as being “for fans by a huge fan.
“I think that so many people focus on her death now, and the conspiracy theories, so I think that Elton really wanted to bring out how vibrant she was, how intelligent and how misunderstood. It’s a chance for her to say all the things that perhaps she didn’t get the chance to say when she was alive.“
Lizzie is no stranger to the format of a solo show – she did Guy Masterson’s Animal Farm in 2001, her first job out of acting school – but portraying one of the greatest popular culture icons of all time was rather daunting at first.
“It’s a big thing to be playing such a well-known, beloved person,“ says the 35-year-old from Herne Hill.
“In the end I decided that the best thing was not to focus on her being this huge famous star – the piece isn’t about that anyway – I just concentrated on the script.“
Writer Elton put an incredible amount of research in to his subject and even the most die-hard of Marilyn fans will come away having learnt something new about their idol.
“It’s an incredible journey that Elton takes the audience on,“ says Lizzie. “It’s so rich, filled with all the different people in her life – the husbands, the studio people – it’s a juicy piece of work, which is lots of fun as well.“
Lizzie mainly researched her through videos and photographs, to really get her physicality. “There’s so much going on in her eyes in the photographs of her,“ she says.
Lizzie and Elton also worked on the character’s voice.
“It is Marilyn you hear, but we wanted to find a voice that she didn’t necessarily use when she was out in public or being interviewed.
“I think she was one big act a lot of the time,“ she continues. “Before, I’d slightly written her off as not being the greatest actress, as a lot of people do, but now I actually think she was a genius. She was exceptional – incredibly clever, sharp and savvy, she was very political and she was a feminist, there’s so much more to her.
“Look at The Prince and the Showgirl, for example, with Laurence Olivier – he’s trying so hard, he’s the ‘big actor’, but she just completely steals the show, she’s absolutely brilliant.
“All she wanted to do was be taken seriously as an actress, but doors were opened for her and she had to go through them. I think she was constantly battling her image but, at the same time, her image was helping her to get to places. She was in a very difficult situation.
“I’m very happy to have discovered so much more about her – she’s definitely won me over.“
The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe is at Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End on Wednesday, May 7 at 8pm. Details: 020 8416 8989, harrowarts.com