James Dean Is Dead! (Long Live James Dean)

Springing up from the wreckage of his famous car (a Spider), James Dean talks honestly, candidly and sometimes with discomfort about his life. He makes no apologies as he discusses his childhood, issues with his father and the death of his mother when he was a mere nine years old. It is tinged with regret, as he frankly tells us he is only twenty four summers old.

A strong, startling and forceful piece

The extraordinary thing about this solo show is that you feel as if you are meeting James Dean. The actor’s resemblance to James Franco is uncanny, and he played James Dean in the film biopic. You’d be forgiven for doing a double take.

Kit Edwards gives an incredible performance, holding the audience in palpable anticipation. The set is humble, with effective use of lighting for scene changes. The sound is also worthy, demonstrating how much you can achieve with very little. He is fierce, sometimes sad and oozing sexiness as he talks openly about hedonism in a way that is both repellant and inviting.

The show itself is not a linear look at his life, but is portrayed as a stream of consciousness. The men he loved, the men he had sex with that he lusted after, the men he didn’t lust after but had sex with anyway because, he explained, that’s the way Hollywood works, that’s “an audition”. His frank descriptions of what he let others do to him, including becoming a human ashtray, is as compelling as it is upsetting. He talks about Lee Strasberg, who asserted that he was talented and unique and then subsequently crushed him in a performance at the actor’s studio. This is something, it seems, which Dean never recovered from. He's proud that Marilyn Monroe described him as the only person she had ever met who was more damaged than she was.

Dean talks about the effect Hollywood had on 'nice' boys, because they couldn’t cope with the nature of the aforementioned auditions. He describes a vile Hollywood, where directors or anyone with power use and abuse what they call the 'boys'. He explains that he didn’t mind this very much, because he wasn’t one of the nice boys. Set in the early 1950’s when America ruled the world, the audience are left wondering how much has really changed. Given the prevalence of the #MeToo campaign, Dean showcases how much you have to give of yourself in order to become a star, regardless of how talented you are.

Dean's narrative is tragic, and he talks about his connection to the story The Little Prince with such longing. He had so much more to give, and will anyone remember him? An incredible performance, holding the audience in the palm of his hand throughout. A strong, startling and forceful piece which will stay with you long after you leave.

Reviews by Susanne Crosby

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Hollywood’s hottest star steps out of his crashed car and looks back on his short life. A timely look at how the film industry uses sex, drugs and power to make and break careers. Presented by last year’s Scottish Sun LGBTQ production award winners. From creators of: 5 Guys Chillin’, Brighton Fringe Award, Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival Awards, performed in Sydney, Canada and Off-Broadway; Frank Sent Me, **** (Scotsman); Signal Failure, **** (Scotsman), which transferred to SoHo Playhouse Off-Broadway; and the highly acclaimed Mysterious Skin, ‘Stunning’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com).

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