Wednesday 22 January 2020

Queen Bette - Midsumma Festival review

The biggest bitch in Hollywood is back. Performed as part of the Midsumma Festival, Queen Bette delves into the life of film legend Bette Davis. Having had its initial development in 2014, its creators, director Peter Mountford and performer Jeanette Cronin, have refined this into a spellbinding production that gives a stirring voice to a woman that Hollywood often wished would just stay quiet and do her job.

Cronin may bare an uncanny resemblance to the movie icon, but her mannerisms and speech add to the authenticity of her portrayal that highlights Davis' fiery personality. This is further heightened when you consider that most of the dialogue was originally spoken or written by Davis, which is based on much research by its creators. In this captivating performance you can easily find yourself believing that Davis is standing right in front of you, because apart from capturing Bette Davis' eyes, Cronin also finds a way to capture her spirit and soul.

Mountford's direction is surprising and engaging with changes in style and pace throughout the show, while retaining a contemplative and solemn tone as Bette brings up memories of her childhood, her relationships and career. Her green room is fitted with some furniture, a clothed mannequin, and a dresser covered with various items of symbolism and meaning including a wooden toy duck, piles of scripts, photographs and an Oscar. At times, Bette sits at the dresser, her back to the audience, but her reflection in the mirror keeps her visible to us, illustrative of her vulnerability but determination in staring anyone down.

Queen Bette is a fitting tribute to this screen star who fought hard to ensure she had a say in how she was perceived and what turn her life and career took. Despite attempts to keep her silent and docile, Davis made sure her voice could not, and would not, be ignored. Queen Bette honours her by making sure her voice is not only heard, but not forgotten. 

Click here for my interview with Jeanette Cronin.


Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park

Season: until 1 February | Tues - Sat 7:00pm (no shows Tues 28 or Wed 30), Sat 2:00pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc 
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

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