By Anton Burge
Directed by Elliott Bunker
By 1962, two of the silver screen’s great leading ladies, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, were has-beens. The women – both famed for playing strong independent characters, both with difficult personal lives and both a long way past 40 – had been replaced by a new breed of perky blonde stars.
Then they got an unexpected opportunity: playing opposite each other in what was to become a cult classic, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
The play is set in the adjoining dressing rooms of Davis and Crawford on the back-lot of the Warner Bros Studio where “Baby Jane” was being filmed. It uses autobiographical accounts and gossip-column rumour to build up a picture and story of what really happened between the women off-screen.
If you’ve seen the recently televised “Feud” by Ryan Murphy, this play charts a similar period of time, but in a heavily condensed way.
Bette Davis – Hollywood actress, 54. A star that has nothing to prove. Brisk, no nonsense, to the point of abruptness, caustic, brittle, difficult, vulnerable and funny. At the time of filming, a low point in her life and career. Has worked steadily through the ’50s, though often with unrewarding results. Angry at the state of the business and her position within it. A professional to her fingertips. Four times married, recently divorced, mother of three (two adopted). All that matters now is the work.
Joan Crawford – Hollywood star, admits to 54, though is actually 58; as an actress has much to prove. Glamorous, neurotic, moody, vulnerable, generous and alcoholic. Desperate for approval. Comfortable playing the star, though there is always an uncertainty about this, stemming from a childhood that lacked education and love, from which she struggled, reinventing herself, to survive in the toughest of businesses. Four times married, recently widowed, mother of four (all adopted). Throughout her life, in spite of adversity, the image of Joan Crawford, star, continues to shine.
NOTE: Scripts available from mid June.