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Bette and Joan brought vividly to life by Foursight Theatre Company
12:03pm Thursday 12th April 2012 in Leisure
BETTE and Joan: The Final Curtain is, sadly, the final production from the inspired Foursight Theatre Company, which will disappear in its present incarnation at the end of the current tour, having failed to secure the Arts Council funding they needed to continue.
But they’re certainly going out on a high as they demonstrated when Bette and Joan arrived at The Courtyard last week. A two-hander with Sarah Thom playing Bette Davis and Hedda Hopper, and Sarah Toogood cast as Joan Crawford and Louella Parsons, the one-act play imagined with humour and pathos the conversation that might have taken place had Joan been sent by Hopper and Parsons to shepherd Bette to ‘the other side’, to hold her hand ‘as she passed’. The two legendary Hollywood hacks acted as a quasi Greek chorus, projected on to the wardrobe doors, interference crackling as they squawked and shrieked ‘encouragement’ and not a little impatience.
It’s a matter of public record that there was little love lost between the two iconic stars, but their names are as inextricably linked as those of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Bette, once she recovers from the shock of Joan’s arrival in her bedroom, is in no hurry to give her the satisfaction of following her meekly and popping her clogs to order.
Thom and Toogood were clearly having the time of their lives inhabiting the skins of two of the silver screen’s greatest divas, weaving an imaginary conversation from the recorded drama of their lives, most memorably as they strained to convince one another of their maternal credentials, credentials that had been exposed and shattered by their daughters’ biographies.
But, of course, Foursight are always focussed on the female experience and Bette and Joan proved to be no exception. From the pair’s antagonism they drew wit and laughter, tears and tantrums, to arrive at the inevitable conclusion that they had far more in common than not. “You mean we could have been friends?”
The clever introduction of filmed segments - Joan’s journey towards Bette’s bedside beamed onto the wardrobe doors which open to reveal the flesh-and-blood Crawford, the inspired addition of Hopper and Parsons and final scenes that, fittingly, restored the warring divas to celluloid, walking off into the sunset, as the final credits rolled. Another definite winner from a theatre company who have always delighted Courtyard audiences with exciting innovative and inventive productions - and a great one to go out on.