An engrossing and darkly funny character study.
Bookmarked by pill-taking and martini-drinking, Granger’s monologues move slowly but thoughtfully from one life event to the next. She describes her first sexual encounters and how she realised sex could be used both for pleasure, and as a useful asset for her career. Being noticed for being the only white girl in a black gospel choir, Granger quickly signs onto the Motown label, where her public image is immediately sculpted for her (with some helpful suggestions from herself). Granger is a classic pop star diva. It’s much more about the fame than it is about the art. She craves the admiration and adoration of her fans, to the point that she cares more about it than her family. The best part of the play comes when Granger talks about her stardom beginning to fade, forcing her to find ways to stay in the limelight in an imaginatively funny ‘80s and ‘90s pop world. The play also becomes poignant in its treatment of the personal tragedies that hit even the most glamorous of stars, especially regarding Granger’s relationship with her family.
Sharon Drain’s charismatic and empathetic performance perfectly brings to life the celebrity who has everything and nothing, the script matching her brilliantly dry and sarcastic manner. Though the stage space does leave a little room for more directorial flourishes and dynamic movements, Drain commands the room with her dry wit and light audience interaction, speaking to us both as interviewers and members of her fanclub. While the action can be slow, it never becomes boring, the surreal intensity of Granger’s life always creating fresh interest. An engrossing and darkly funny character study, Hella Granger – Superstar embodies a world, now gone, yet always still with us, relating to us the crazed relationship between art, popularity and the person trapped between them.