Review: Marlene ***

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Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

IT is not nice to speak ill of the dead, especially the so recently departed, but there is no getting away from the fact that Pam Gems’s script about the great German actress Miss Dee-trish, as her name is pronounced in the Parisian club where this play is set, lacks drama.

As an insight into Marlene Dietrich, the complex, emotionally fragile screen star, it is interesting, compelling even in some parts, but Gems all but admits that her drama runs out of steam before the end. The last 20 odd minutes turns into a recreation of a concert given by the star.

Gems, who passed away a couple of weeks ago, wrote great parts for women in her theatre career which only got properly underway once she was in her forties. Here there are hints at what could have been a great part, if only there was more meat to the script.

As Marlene, the husky voiced Yorkshire actor Sarah Parks does an admirable job of bringing Marlene to life.

Her sudden bouts of violent temper, mixed with moments of searing loneliness in which her vulnerability is revealed bring layers to the portrayal.

All but a one-woman show, she is occasionally joined by Loveday Smith playing Dietrich’s sometime lover Vivian Hoffman, who hints at an ocean of buried feelings in the fleeting moments she is allowed on the stage.

When the stage is reset to become front of house and Parks takes to the stage, all pouts and throaty singing as Dietrich, it holds interest only for those who would like to see a concert given by the star, as opposed to those looking for a piece of drama.

To June 18.