By Laurie Scarborough
The White Whore and the Bit Player is a play written by Tom Eyen, better known for his Broadway book and lyrics for Dreamgirls. This is one of his earlier plays, premiered in 1964, and follows the life story of a washed up actress in the last few moments of her life before she commits suicide. She wrestles with her demons in the sanatorium she was sent to by the Hollywood that pushed her over the edge.
The character, based on Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow, is essentially divided into the white whore that society and Hollywood made her into and the nun that she always saw herself to be. Jazzara Jaslyn plays the nun, while Donna Cormack-Thomson plays the whore.
However, they both interchange characters throughout and shift accents and characters with ease, like chameleons – sometimes with just one line for each character. But with simple physicality and the change of an accent, the tilt of a head, signalled to the audience that the character had changed. Skillfully performed by both actresses, the challenging material was really carried by their performances with nuance and agility. They were both well matched for each other and for the material.
The material was witty with very dark undertones. It really highlighted how actresses can be at the mercy of the entertainment industry in terms of how their images are constructed, what roles they take and their eventual fate. It showed how actresses struggle to have agency in the industry that can take control of their identity and objectify women. It takes an intelligent actress of determination to self-direct their destiny.
I found the music at times a bit overwhelming and it sometimes drowned out the words of the actresses which was a bit unfortunate but otherwise there wasn’t much else to criticise.
The show runs at the Alexander Bar Theatre from 23rd to 28th May. Book here.