Writer-performer Kit Finnie explores the fascinating, tragic experiences of scandal-plagued Hollywood silent film star, Mabel Normand in Kit Finnie: Mabel and Mickey. Finnie moves between identities – sometimes she’s Normand, sometimes herself. But as Finnie and the show intentionally break down, the clarity of Finnie’s message about the perils of performance does not always come through.
Normand is being investigated over the murder of her friend, film director William Desmond Taylor. She cannot help but flash her on-screen smile and ask for performance notes during her police interrogation. Interspersed between these Normand monologues, Finnie, with an overhead projector and hand-crafted shadow puppets, attempts to tell more of Normand’s story. But an angry, ghostly voice keeps interjecting, resisting Finnie’s interpretation. Truth remains elusive. At moments, Finnie loses her place and her words. She struggles to keep going but is guided back to her performance by her off-stage director.
While delving into the strain of revealing truth through artifice and getting lost in voices not your own, the parallels being drawn between artists past and present are not always legible. Normand’s dependence on direction gets mirrored nicely with Finnie’s. But there are compelling ideas around what traumas these artists endure that need sharpening.