Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD. To 31 August. :: :: The Theatre Reviews site that covers the UK.

A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD. To 31 August. :: The Theatre Reviews site that covers the UK.

Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Aug 13, 2008 - 10:07 PM


by Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen.

Leicester Square Theatre 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BP To 31 August 2008.
Tue-Sat 8pm Sun 7pm Mat Thu, Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 2375.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 August.

Exclusive meeting with the Head of Hollywood.

Teacher turned Hollywood Costume Designer Edith Head forged her way into movies with a catalogue of designs that weren’t her own. Later in her life at Paramount and Universal Studios there’d be more questions of attribution, including the designs for Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting that won her one of eight Oscars (she spent years pushing for Costume as a category).

But, working on 1131 films from twenties silents to 1981 (when this show’s set, Edith arriving slightly late and apologetic from a ‘phone call about her final film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid), Head could afford a controversy or two.

She was well up to putting her view, as this aptly-titled show shows. Audience questions and comments from unattributed helpers elicit responses indicating the mercurial manner of someone who could be touchy if challenged, but was discreet about the stars she’d not got on with, and generous about the ones she’d liked. Only at the end is there some sense of regret she’d always been in the shadows, the anonymous figure behind the star whose beauty she’d enhanced and glamour she’d helped create.

An array of stills across the tiny stage in the small downstairs space at the Leicester Square Theatre (just north of the square itself), are mostly of Hollywood’s glittering generations; but the occasional one shows Head in striking pose, with dark-glasses, well-aware of the industry she’s working among.

American Susan Claassen catches Head’s darkly distinctive look remarkably, equipping it with contrasting energy, telling stories, responding to questions, switching mood or track without a split-second’s loss of pace. The show’s title is right; this soon takes on the feel of a conversation, as Claassen treats each audience member with individual attention, leaving a conviction you’ve been in Head’s presence yourself.

No doubt she was a fighter – and had to be in cinematic Egoland. Twice-married, she claims 8 important men in her life, all called Oscar: her octet of Awards helped build her status with the stars. For anyone with any leaning towards the era of Hollywood glamour-fantasies, Claassen’s spot-on impersonation provides a riveting hour-and-a-half.

Edith Head: Susan Claassen.

Designers: James Blair, Susan Claassen.
Costume Re-creations: Chris Brewer, Maryann Trombino.
Wig design: Renate E Leuschner.
Voice/Movement coach: Dianne J Winslow.

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