Friday 19 April 2024

Bette and Joan

by Anton Burge | directed by Steven Scase
18-20 and 24-27 April 2024

In Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, aging Hollywood legends Bette Davies and Joan Crawford play two feuding actresses. Between takes, their bitter on-screen rivalries continue in their adjacent dressing rooms – according to Bette and Joan, by Anton Burge.  While Joan Crawford manages her anxiety by lacing her Pepsi with vodka and signing photographs for her beloved fans, Bette Davis chain smokes and muses on her love-life and her ability to pick a decent script, never a decent man.  Both indulge in ‘delicious bitching’ about the other. 

Between the put-downs and the practical jokes we see each woman’s insecurities and regrets: their rivalry is revealed to be underpinned by grudging respect as they attempt to identify their new roles in life as well as in their careers.

Photography: Barry Parsons

"Brilliant show! Great play, great production, out-of-this-world performances!" Trevor

"An amazing show and two stunning performances!!!! Massive congratulations to the whole team!!!" Wendy

[Message to director] "Steven, my dear boy, congratulations on an excellent production of Bette and Joan. It was very enjoyable and evocative. Like you (I suspect) I am an aficionado of Classic film of the 40's and 50's, having experienced a lot of it first hand. (Yes, I am far gone in age and ineptitude.) I can remember the release of Baby Jane. It was not reviewed favourably by the critics or me, but time has mellowed my opinion. I love Bette Davis.  All about Eve is one of my favourite films, and Alison Utting caught her brashness, balls and seeming confidence and yet showed us her fragility and softness that underlined everything she did, so well. A fine performance.  As indeed, was lovely Julie as the buttoned up Joan Crawford. They both gave me the impression of standing on your supportive shoulders." David

"Congratulations to Steven Scase, Alison Utting and Julie Hewitt! Wonderful production, and magnificent performances from Julie and Alison! Last three performances coming up… Catch it if you can!" Robin

"Absolutely fabulous production. Two amazing actresses." Diane

"Excellenthighly appreciated and recommended. Brilliant production, loved every second." James

"It was such a wonderful, awe-inspiring performance last night. Utterly captivating. Can’t stop thinking about it..." Laura

"See this show! Two outstanding performances and brilliant production too." Jane

"Fantastic performances from two exceptional actresses. Loved it. The lighting person ... deserves praise too." Joanna

"Highly recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Great performances." Gary

"Hewitt and Utting displayed a beautiful deftness of touch to their performances, which showed a different side to Bette and Joan as the actors shifted from comedy to emotional outpourings with such ease." Ray Tempesta, East Anglian Theatre Podcast [click here for full review]

"An entertaining look behind the curtain of the lost world of the pictures, brought to life by two dazzling performers." James Goffin, Cultivated [click here for full review]

"Saw this tonight and loved it! Two exceptional performances, book tickets if you can." Catherine

“Do see if you can. I wangled a sneak preview before leaving town. It's a great piece. Not only do you get inside the adjoining dressing rooms of these movie icons, you get inside the heads of these outwardly tough women who have survived everything that life and the Hollywood mincing machine have thrown at them. Oh, and two very good performances.” David

"Strong women in abundance - you were both so brilliant. Bravo, ladies..." Joanna

"A Must-See Gem of a Show! We were treated to the most captivating and engaging Opening Night performance last night given by the ridiculously talented Alison Utting and Julie Hewitt under the genius, empathetic Direction of Steven Scase. Within minutes it's as if Hollywood Prima Donnas Bette and Joan had morphed into Ms Utting and Ms Hewitt in much the same way as the ‘Ghost’ character Sam does in the séance scene with Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae the Psychic. No longer were we watching two of Norwich's finest actors give the performance of their lives in one of Norwich's finest and intimate little creative power houses. No Sir-ee...we were voyeurs in a Warner Bros back lot dressing room in 1962. And we were in on the conversation that was going on within between these two Silver Screen divas. It was sometimes funny, often uncomfortable, but also heartrending in a truths laid bare sort of way. As bare as Ms Davis's wig stand was, once the Baby Jane curls had been removed leaving the gruesome painted face, like a death mask, staring back at you. Cleverly this could well be symbolic of those two Hollywood Honies; uncovered to reveal that raw injustice, in that love-less and insane world, from the casting couch to the cast-offs (quite literally with Ms Crawford’s predilection for knitting). There was real tension and emotion here too at the end (no spoilers) and personally I would have been quite happy to watch an extra scene to see what happened next...and then what happened after that. Having been invited to share their dramas, rivalry, secrets and dilemmas had become fairly addictive viewing by now. Authentic to the last, there are no fuzzy edges here; Bette and Joan have fully morphed into Alison and Julie. And these two are the Real Deal. Go get some!" Samantha

"Really enjoyed and was intrigued by Bette and Joan at the Sewell Barn Theatre tonight. What a tour de force from Alison Utting and Julie Hewitt in this two hander. Absolutely fascinating - making me rush to Google to discover more!" Clare Williamson, Front of House Manager, Sewell Barn

"It was brilliant, and two exceptional performances." Aamer

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