Inspired by the real-life story of Peg Entwistle, a British actress who went to Hollywood to find fame and jumped off the ‘H’ of the sign in 1932, ending her life at just 24, this production from Hartstone-Kitney Productions and Black Box Live, in Australia, is streaming in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe after a successful run at the Adelaide Fringe.
The leading character here is Evie Edwards, aspiring singer, who tells us her life story through memories and songs on that last night of her life. She’s bought a new dress, that “once belonged to Theda Bara’, and has climbed the long ladder to that fateful H structure. She’s a very likeable character, which makes her brush with the dark side of Hollywood both inevitable and tragic.
Set in 1949, this play mentions Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Jean Harlow “daddy took me to see her in The Girl from Missouri because I was a girl from Missouri”, and more. Evie’s dreams are those of a fan who looks for the silver lining; expecting stardom on her first step from the train.
Written and performed by Joanne Hartstone, directed by Vince Fusco, and designed by Tom Kitney, The Girl Who Jumped off the Hollywood Sign takes a wry and sharp look at the Golden Age of Hollywood and how it chewed up people chasing contracts like Evie Edwards.
Heading to Los Angeles in the post-Depression boom with her father, a skilled worker who won’t be parted from her, Edwards does everything she can to find fame; dancing and singing lessons, trips to the Hollywood Canteen. Once Tinseltown gets her into the hallowed gates of MGM through one of those typical gatemen you only find in the movies, you just know she is going to have her heart broken.
Hartstone has a lovely singing voice and a chatty style for the audience and camera, and although there is nothing other than her on the stage, clinging to the sign supports, she creates a whole world to delight the film buff. Well-chosen songs, too. This is a story about the harsh realities behind the star system, and it is written and performed beautifully.
Fringe rating: ****
You can stream The Girl Who Jumped off the Hollywood Sign on the Black Box Live platform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until 30 AugustL purchase your ticket here.