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The Marilyn Conspiracy review at Assembly, Edinburgh – ‘under-developed drama that blurs fact and fiction’

The Marilyn Conspiracy at Assembly, Edinburgh. Photo: Brigitta Scholz Mastroianni
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Within only a few years of Marilyn Monroe’s death, conspiracy theories began to evolve. Her links with mafia figures were well known, as was her association with the Kennedy family. But behind the image of an internationally acclaimed sex symbol there was a troubled soul, who suffered from mental health issues.

This new play by Vicki McKellar and Guy Masterson imagines the period between Monroe’s death and the arrival of the police at her home several hours later. While the official verdict was probable suicide, the writers draw on facts to create a murder scenario laid squarely at the feet of Bobby Kennedy, with actor and Kennedy’s brother-in-law Peter Lawford sent to aggressively wrangle a cover-up.

Facts aside, McKellar and Masterson’s play unravels as a bit of a one-note shouting match. The frantic tone and fact-pounding lack dramatic finesse and, despite Lawford’s guilt in this scenario, his character lacks sufficient menace to extract a lifetime of silence from doctors, friends and assorted associates.

It’s a stifling play and despite some enthusiastic tub-thumping from Oliver Farnsworth as Lawford, there’s very little room for character development. Sally Mortemore at least manages to invest some quiet dignity into housekeeper Eunice Murray, the only material witness in a case already assigned to the history books.

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Stifling, under-developed drama that blurs fact and fiction