Review: Veronica Lake

02:41, Aug 24 2012
Veronica Lake
ONE WOMAN SHOW: Alex Ellis as Veronica Lake.

Who is Veronica Lake? Or maybe that should be, who was?

The one-woman-play Drowning in Veronica Lake uncovers the secrets of the forgotten 1940s screen siren: hype, scandal, booze and more bad boys than you could poke a stick at.  It's a darkly funny, sadly familiar tale of the toll stardom can take.

In 1942, Lake was the hottest of Hollywood hot. She was in demand, both professionally and personally.  Her platinum blonde hair - which always covered her right eye - was the style of the day.  At one point, locks of it sold for $18,000 a pop.

But within a year, the private planes and the stardom were gone. Instead, the once bankable starlet was being sued by her own family, working in a bar and drinking away her sorrows.  And now, 60 years later, she is just a forgotten name from the past.

It sounds like a rather valid warning to some of today's hot property, right?  

The star of the show, apart from Miss Lake of course, is Auckland actress, Alex Ellis.  

Standing in just one spot for the entire 65 minutes, thanks in large part to a rather spectacular and bloody massive gown, Ellis flicks strikingly between the glamorous Lake, her overbearing mother, and any number of ex-lovers.

The thought of one person standing still for an hour might sound less than enticing, but Ellis' ability to draw you into the warts and all world, is astounding.  With every hair flick and hip-pop, it's like a private audience with a forgotten face.

The script, written by Phil Ormsby, is snappy, clever and painfully funny at times.  But as the story progresses, the audience find themselves as a shoulder for Lake to cry on, as she breaks down in every way possible.

As the production notes say, Ellis is 5'11, and Lake was 5'1 - this was never going to be about faithful impersonations.  But that is the charm of the production.  More than a replica, Drowning in Veronica Lake is a beautiful homage to old Hollywood, the perils and pitfalls of fame, and the icy blonde that once ruled the world.  It really is something special.

WHAT: Drowning in Veronica Lake
WHERE: Q Theatre, Auckland
WHEN: Until September 1, with a special double-feature of the play and Lake's film Sullivan's Travels - with wine and jaffas - on August 25.

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