Old Hollywood has always had a mythological feel. But behind the sepia-filtered cigarette smoke, silky gowns and passionate embraces, is a cultural legacy of sexism and exploitation that haunts the industry to this day. Directed by Mark Giesser, Sirens of the Silver Screen explores the tragedy behind the legend; delving into the lives of the 20th century’s most iconic women – Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.
In keeping with the vaudeville genre of variety entertainment, Beth Burrows’ one woman show features singing, comedy, story-telling, costumed acts and live musical accompaniment. Musical Director/Pianist Alex Maynard and Double Bassist Doug Grannell revive some of the much loved classics of the Golden Age, supporting talented Burrows in renditions of Somewhere over the Rainbow, I Could of Danced All Night, Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend and many more. Set in the boudoir of a glamourous Hollywood starlet; an elegant chaise longue, vanity unit and changing screen fill the space. Seductively charming, it’s this very tendency to romanticize that allows society to ignore the realities of Old Hollywood. Celebrating the tragic romance of it all by decking out rooms with posters of icons who required amphetamines to get through the day and dreamy-sighing over the classic gowns that barely let their wearers breathe.
Forever immortalised on screen, Michele Cadei’s projections of old MGM movie snippets and interviews pay tribute to the legacies that have been absorbed into public consciousness. Designer Giulia Scrimieri has the impossible task of recreating the three most expensive costumes ever sold on record – Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s gown- $900, Garland’s Wizard of Oz costume- $910,000 & Monroe’s iconic Seven Year Itch dress, which sold for a whopping $4.6M. Anything other than the real deal is bound to look like a fancy dress replica and the Tabard’s intimate studio space only highlights this further.
The issue with the piece stems predominantly from how it’s advertised, with many people going in to what they expect will be an impersonation of the three sirens. There are no raspy Garland tones, nor polished Hepburn lilts and with only a slightly breathy Monroe, many may be disappointed.