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Hello Norma Jeane review at London’s Park Theatre – ‘sentimental melodrama’

Farrel Hegarty, Vicki Michelle and Jamie Hutchins in Hello Norma Jeane at London's Park Theatre. Photo: Mia Hawk Farrel Hegarty, Vicki Michelle and Jamie Hutchins in Hello Norma Jeane at London's Park Theatre. Photo: Mia Hawk

Is she or isn’t she? In Dylan Costello’s Hello Norma Jeane an Essex pensioner runs off to Hollywood to inform her gay grandson that she is really Marilyn Monroe. She faked her death in 1962 and is now ready to make a comeback. Is she deluded, telling the truth, or is this a way of helping the boy sort out his own confused life?

Costello’s play wavers uncertainly between camp comedy and sentimental melodrama before finally settling on the latter, and despite the occasional delightfully bitchy joke, the moments of touching affection between grandmother and grandson are the most satisfying things on offer here.

Guided by director Matthew Gould, the cast seems more comfortable with the play’s more serious moments than the comic or the fantasy-based scenes. Vicki Michelle makes it clear that, whatever the state of her sanity, the grandmother’s love for the boy never wavers, and Jamie Hutchins lets the lad mature believably as he realises that his devotion to her means more to him than discovering the truth.

Doubling as the fantasies of both main characters (and also as a cynical TV host), Farrel Hegarty is less convincing as the boy’s Marilyn than as the old woman’s more down to earth Norma Jeane, while Peter McPherson, given little to build on as an out-of-work actor, also serves the play generously.

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Uneven comedy-drama that is at its best when most unabashedly sentimental