I was lucky enough to go to the ‘Press Night’ of Bette & Joan at the Arts Theatre on Tuesday.
This is a new play starring (only) the rather odd pairing of Anita Dobson & Greta Scacchi. It tells the story of the feud between Bette Davis (Scacchi) and Joan Crawford (Dobson), caught while they were filming Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
Now, I must admit, I was a little unprepared – it was a free night out, so I was happy to go along, but I knew nothing of the feud, and I couldn’t even remember at the film was (yes, disgraceful, I know). I ‘researched’ in hindsight when I returned home though because I actually really enjoyed the play!
Scacchi was an entirely believable Bette Davis, although I must admit, I think I found her role easier to pull off, as I couldn’t have told you what Joan Crawford was like, whereas everyone knows just how ballsy and outspoken Davis was. Anita Dobson ably portrayed an elegant ‘star’ (NOT an actress like Davis) devoted to her fans on the surface, but a bit of a slut deep down, with a childhood that she tried to overcome and cover-up, which seems realistic considering my belated research.
There were lines used that were obviously taken from biographies, or other public quotes that I stumbled across including the likes of “Joan Crawford has slept with everyone at MGM except Lassie.”
The simple set showed them in adjacent dressing rooms, speaking to the audience as if conspiring with them behind their closed doors, with just a small amount of dialogue between the two actresses.
It was witty in places and gave me an insight into a story I knew nothing about and I found it interesting and enjoyable – if a little shallow. It wasn’t firey, exciting or unique, but it was camp, entertaining, a bit bitchy but overall harmless.
However, my evening was immensely enhanced by sitting two seats behind Cilla Black and Paul O’Grady – especially when Christopher Biggins popped over to say hello to them, and Patricia Hodge made her way to her seat just in front. Oh yes, and standing beside Clive Anderson at the bar (who actually sent me a handwritten note some years ago after I’d written him a fax of support when I’d been in the audience when The Bee Gees walked out from his show).
I was Z-star struck. I’m so easily pleased…