Thursday, 18 November 2004
My Secret Marlene by Matthew Aberline, Nov 18, 2004
My Secret Marlene
by Matthew Aberline
La Mama, Carlton Courthouse, to November 27, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Anna Voronoff's one-woman show, My Secret Marlene, is an ambitious performance. However, it is only partially successful.
The play, written by Matthew Aberline and directed by Bruce Naylor, presents an oblique view of Marlene Dietrich through the eyes of a fictional German woman, Lola.
Lola, now elderly and bed-ridden, was a Berlin cabaret artist with Marlene during the 1930s, the Weimar period of German art.
Marlene is never seen as a character but each of the parade of personalities Voronoff plays on stage is somehow connected to her.
Lola performed in a dingy cabaret show with Marlene but Lola presumed she herself, not Marlene, her lover, would be the artist discovered and whisked away to Hollywood,
As Lola, decrepit and poor, lies under her blanket, she speaks to Doroman, a shifty old fellow who is a mutual friend of Marlene and Lola.
Doroman reveals to us the puppet Lola, a precocious and perhaps abused child. What follows is Lola's own cabaret act, a provocative routine by Voronoff in a black corset and stockings.
We meet the slick manager of the cabaret club, Schmidt and the transvestite cabaret singer who insists it is his act that Marlene used to model her own husky, sensual image for Hollywood.
Lola is persecuted by the Nazis while Marlene sings and makes movies.
There are plenty of Marlene's songs: The Laziest Girl in Town, Lili Marlene, Falling in Love Again and snatches of others.
The play is too long and, although Voronoff works very hard to recreate all characters, she does not inhabit them sufficiently for the show to be successful.
The characters are ill defined and sometimes it is difficult to recognise which she is playing. Costume changes are not sufficient to clarify this.
The play drags on past its natural ending, has too many songs, too many finales and Aberline's script is too long and reveals very little about Marlene.
The music itself is effective. Voronoff is accompanied by the Schwanzkokopf Trio, a talented jazz group (Robert Jackson, Tim Hilton, Tom Fryer) However, a play with so many songs by one woman needs a strong singer to perform them.
My Secret Marlene is a valiant effort with some good ideas, but it is, in the end unsatisfying.
LOOK FOR: The band
By Kate Herbert