AT THE THEATRE
Edinburgh Fringe 2017: Places @ New Town Theatre
What the Edinburgh Fringe website says:
Long before Madonna, the world was gaga for Nazimova. Places follows the story of trailblazer Alla Nazimova: 1920s silent movie icon, Broadway legend and the most famous star you’ve never heard of. From Tsarist Russia to Broadway, Alla was once the highest-paid movie star in Tinseltown and the first female director and producer in Hollywood. Unapologetic about her bisexuality and lust for life, she defied the moral and artistic codes of her time that eventually forced her into obscurity. Romy Nordlinger’s multimedia one-hander revives one of the most daring artists of the 20th century with passion and humour.
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Nowadays, few people know anything about Crimea-born Hollywood silent movie star Alla Nazimova, but this one-hander production does an impressive job of filling in the gap. She’s played by Romy Nordlinger, who gives a powerhouse performance which captures all of the grandiose movie-star exuberance along with a tinge of vodka-coated lamentation. Romy also occasionally slips seamlessly into various other characters during the show, including infamous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
As Alla, she narrates her own life history in a “from beyond the grave” manner, starting from her Russian childhood where her passion for acting clashed with the wishes of her abusive/controlling father. We then follow her move to America where she rose to major stardom and shared the screen with the likes of the legendary Rudolph Valentino.
However, the rumours started surfacing about her homosexuality - something that was strictly taboo at the time. She entered a “lavender marriage” with English star Charles Bryant to quash speculation about their respective sexual orientations. However, the interminable gossip eventually caught up with them as the marriage was later revealed to be a sham, wrecking her career.
Acting and visuals effectively combined
The play makes effective use of multimedia as a huge video display behind her reels off endless archive and movie footage to accompany Romy’s revelations about the actress she is playing. There are also a few arty graphical effects, such as a shattering glass effect over a photograph of an audience attending a theatrical show, the cracks pointing in at the image of her father sitting there. The combination of acting and visuals makes for a compelling and informative hour; I came away wondering why this larger-than-life actress had previously slipped under my radar, and feeling disgusted at the way in which gay people were treated during this period.
A few modern-day references thrown in (to Trump and Twitter) do feel a little self-conscious. Nonetheless, this impressive production is well worth catching, especially for lovers of old movies.
Tickets are available from the following link: