The Marilyn Conspiracy @ Assembly George Square Studios

A new play promises to re-examine the apparent suicide of Marilyn Monroe with fresh eyes

Review by Jon Stapley | 17 Aug 2018
  • The Marilyn Conspiracy

On the Wikipedia page for the death of Marilyn Monroe, the section titled ‘Conspiracy Theories’ is split into five subheads. Clearly, there’s a lot of appetite for theorising about the tragic, untimely death of the legendary actress, and this new production written by Vicki McKellar and Guy Masterson leans straight into it. Seven people gathered shortly after the death of Monroe, all dealing with the shock and grief, and it swiftly becomes overwhelmingly apparent that something isn’t right.

It plays out like an Agatha Christie story if the detective never showed up and the witnesses simply had to figure things out on their own. Actor and socialite Peter Lawford is convinced that this is a suicide, but attending physician Dr Engelburg isn’t so sure. Monroe’s psychiatrist Dr Greenson and her friend Pat Newcomb don’t believe Monroe was suicidal either. And then there’s the matter of the earlier visit from Bobby Kennedy, brother to John F Kennedy (oh yeah, it goes there), which Lawford knows more about than he’s letting on.

Despite the promising setup, it drags. The entire play is effectively one continuous argument, and for eighty-five minutes that is a lot to take. It also squanders a lot of its tension early by virtue of the fact that Lawford is extremely suspicious from the get-go. We know something’s up with him as well as Pat does, and what’s more, from the moment he starts suggesting the group cast Monroe’s death as a suicide, we know that that’s what’s going to happen, because history did record her death as a suicide. And so the rest of the play becomes something of a formality – Lawford spends a long time convincing the rest of the room to go along with his plan, but we already know he’ll succeed. Case closed.

The Marilyn Conspiracy, Assembly George Square Studios (Studio One), 2-27 Aug, 13:45

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