Joanne Hartstone brings aspiring Hollywood actress Evelyn Margaret Edwards (stage name Evie Edwards) to life in this captivating one-woman show. We traverse the key moments of the 20th century as they shape Evelyn’s future. Her widowed father loses everything in the Wall Street Crash, later moving to Los Angeles during World War II, seeking employment, where Edwards herself will become devoted to Hollywood stardom – enthralled by the likes of Bette Davis and Jean Harlow. Evelyn endured hardship, and began singing and performing in a shanty town during the Great Depression, finding joy and escape in the songs and films of classic Hollywood.
The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign is an insight into the destructive power of Hollywood, manipulating and working actresses into poor mental and physical health, demanding nothing less than perfection. Hartstone uses the tragedy of Theda Bara (abandoned after the end of the silent film) and Peg Entwhistle (the actress who did jump off the Hollywood sign) to showcase the lack of humanity shown by the studios. Talent becomes irrelevant when big names in the business – and it is a business – evaluate Evelyn and find her lacking due to her weight and jawline.
Hartstone’s attention to detail results in an intimate portrayal of a woman struggling to picture an alternate path, as her childhood dream dissolves. There are moments of joy, humour and sweetness throughout this ode to those left in the wake of success and stardom. Her voice perfectly captures the nasal delivery of the period – as she leads us through several classic songs of the era, loosely attached to the narrative. Moving, entertaining and well researched, The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign is both a nostalgic voyage into the past, and a successful endeavor in illuminating the injustice within it often left unspoken.
Words: Fraser MacIntyre
Photo: Vince Fusco
The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign, Assembly Roxy, Aug 26-28, 11.30am