So – Marilyn Monroe is back! Bored with the mundane after-life, she’s returned to earth, opened a bar in Brighton, roped in old pal Elvis and her new friend Amy, and is putting on this show for your pleasure. Or at least that’s the premise of this gleefully filthy and thoroughly enjoyable musical extravaganza.
The scene upstairs at the Jive Monkey set the mood perfectly, an air of sleek ‘50s boozy speak-easy glamour providing an ideal backdrop for what followed - I made a point of ordering a double whiskey during the interval just to play out the Mad Men fantasies unravelling in my mind. Essentially hitting a middle ground between tribute act, cabaret and comedic satire, the show is divided into rotational performances by each of the characters, blasting through the hits, some covers, and a deliciously dirty original composition ‘Monroe’ has recently written on the ukulele (or should that be the ‘uke-a-pooka-doodle’?)
What elevated the show to such a high level was the sheer bombast and genuine talent of the performances. Both performers boast emphatic singing voices, natural on-stage charisma and supreme confidence, even when dealing with an initially reserved crowd, increasing audience banter, and a Bukowski look-alike who just wouldn’t sit down (much to the amusement of the audience and bemusement of those onstage). Nixon creates a truly sensual, captivating Marilyn Monroe, capturing the iconic glamour effortlessly; Deveraux’s Elvis Presley is bristling with the energy, stage presence and star factor required to adequately re-create The King. The dialogue was razor-sharp, both handling the audience well and layering the song introductions with witty observations from the minds of their revived stars.
Nixon’s attempt at Amy Winehouse was clearly less well prepared and less self-assured, but this only served to add a level of erratic charm to the proceedings. And just because it can’t be emphasised enough – their singing voices are incredible.
Amongst the highlights were pretty much all of the classic Elvis numbers, a sultry duet of ‘Fever’, and Monroe’s rendition of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, which bought an end to the show amidst rapturous applause. The high point of audience participation was Monroe cheekily inviting a male audience member onstage to help her sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his female partner – whilst it seemed initially innocent, who knew asking someone to hold your diaphragm whilst you sing could be so suggestive? It was all done in good humour and joviality, and Monroe even treated the birthday girl to a glass of the wine she was swigging on stage (straight from the bottle, of course). But really, picking highlights from this show only serves to set the scene, because there was never a dull moment.
Alive & Swinging with Marilyn Monroe is a wildly entertaining and gloriously debauched spectacle and easily my highlight of what I’ve seen thus far. Firmly deserving of your time if you’re looking to indulge in the more debauched, boozier side of the Fringe.