music / Canberra Symphony Orchestra, ACTEWAGL Llewellyn Three, Llewellyn Theatre, July 18. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
THE allure of Marilyn Monroe has never faded, says actor Lexi Sekuless, who’s presenting a new version of her cabaret show “Some Like It Marilyn” at Old Parliament House.
Running from September 10-12, “Some Like It Marilyn” is an updated version of the show Lexi created and performed at Teatro Vivaldi in 2010, and also as a one-woman show while working and studying in London until 2014.
“I kind of merged both shows this time, bringing in a few more quiet, reflective moments where it’s just me, to contrast with the sequins and the glamour. I love that it taps into such a golden era of cinema,” Lexi says.
“I’m fascinated by the way we hear of Marilyn from other people, and how we can never really know the truth. We all grab the bits we want from her but what is it that we keep on wanting? We’ll never know but I’m happy to pose the question.”
The cabaret show features a cast of four: Helen MacFarlane, Zack Raffan and Lexi’s brother Tim Sekuless, performing monologues as Jane Russell, Billy Wilder, Joe DiMaggio and Tony Curtis.
Lexi, 29, graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and says her interest in Marilyn comes from her days starting out as an actor and trying to get into drama school.
“I kept getting told I wasn’t vulnerable enough, and was seen as this Aussie battler,” she says.
“I’d done a stage production of ‘The Seven Year Itch’ and had seen that Marilyn was constantly vulnerable, a bit rudderless, and I started to look more closely at her work.
“As an actor I knew I needed that quality, the way she was so open and available.
“She couldn’t switch it off and didn’t have a professional version of herself, and while it ended up being destructive it was mesmerising when captured on film.”
Exercising that muscle as an actor has been hugely helpful, says Lexi, who cites a career highlight performing in “Richard III” at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 2013, and recently played Marianne in “Constellations” at the Street Theatre.
“Writers spend years crafting a script, but as an actor you have to be faster, to be open to the textures and sensitive to the character and the other actors,” she says.
“As Marianne in ‘Constellations’ I had to be really available to her grief and loss at having a brain tumour, and convey that without speech at times.
“It’s not necessarily a good idea to be that vulnerable in real life, on a date, or when you’re at the shops – the way Marilyn was always ‘on’. We need to have some kind of guard up and hold a part of ourselves back!”
“Some Like It Marilyn” is all Lexi’s work, but she says she feels more like she compiled it.
There are scenes from Marilyn’s films, “Bus Stop” and “Some Like It Hot”, and musical numbers, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Two Little Girls from Little Rock”.
“All the monologues are mine, invoking anecdotes from people who knew her through her work or loved her, despite her career being all consuming – and how she often got in her own way,” she says.
“I like how the show has evolved since I first performed it, and how the audience experiences Marilyn through other people, the way it often was. She never speaks in the first person. And since she passed away 55 years ago, it’s the only way we can experience her.
“The show is filmographic rather than biographic because I enjoy her work, not the tabloid scandals and her private life.”
“Some Like It Marilyn”, with dinner at Old Parliament House on September 10-12. Bookings to Eventbrite.com.au