Bette Davis Ain't For Sissies (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

Bette Davis Ain't For Sissies

credit: Moments by Alexandra

Jessica Sherr inhabits the infamous Hollywood actress at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

It's 1939, and the night of the Oscars. Double Oscar winner Bette Davis has lost to Vivien Leigh, for Gone With the Wind, and she is having a major hissy fit. Initially, this piece seems like an unprepossessing and thinly-veiled tirade against the Hollywood system. But writer/star Jessica Sherr (uncannily familiar in her every pout or raised eyebrow) does something very sophisticated – she metaphorically scrubs Davis of her make-up and gowns, revealing the ambitious child seeking affirmation from both parents.

Never a 'pretty' actor, Davis nevertheless succeeded in the age of the casting couch, which she lampoons by stripping down to corset and knickers and adopting 'pin-up ' poses – she was a real actor with integrity, not a hoofer or glamour girl. Her voice, with a slightly English affectation which could strip paint, only softens when dealing with the romantic relationships which she is failing to negotiate.

Bette Davis Ain't For Sissies is a magnificently witty and touching testament to a woman who refused to compromise. Sherr so inhabits Davis that it is eerie – even wearing Davis' real evening gloves. She is a star in the making, in her own right. Davis would, you suspect, approve.

Assembly Rooms, George Street, 0844 693 3008, 1–24 Aug, 2.45 pm, £10 (£9).

Bette Davis Ain't for Sissies

  • 4 stars

Jessica Sherr It’s early evening of 1939 Academy Awards, young Miss Davis is nominated for Best Actress and the Los Angeles Times leaked the Oscar winners early! ‘This year Vivian Leigh will take home the Oscar for Best Actress’. Newspaper in hand, the bold and defiant Bette Davis decides to leave! Journey into the young…