Arthur Miller’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe was certainly a turbulent one. He never denied it and his play After The Fall savaged their relationship. Finishing the Picture was Miller’s very final play and is a blatant, thinly disguised account of what happened during the making of The Misfits which was to prove to be Monroe’s last completed picture. The play is based around seven characters who deal with Kitty, the famous movie star that we never see or hear, but who has the effect of adding to these characters’ troubles and concerns.
There’s the faithful assistant Edna Meyers, played by Rachel Handshaw, and the Hollywood producer Philip Oschner, played by Oliver Le Sueur, who is employed to try and keep a lid on everything. Here Miller’s wit is paramount, Bedlam Pictures being the name of the film studio trying to help keep the madness to the minimum.
Derek Clemson is the director, clearly based on John Houston who directed The Misfits played with a wonderful sense of macho by Stephen Billington. However it is Nicky Goldie as Flora Fassinger and Tony Redden as Jerome Fassinger that play the sycophantic and snobbish acting coaches who get my vote for really bringing true characters to life.
Here Miller’s disdain, loathing and mistrust for Paula and Lee Strasberg is put on total show. He does not hide his feelings at all. His honesty is brutal and at the same time via these characters you get that he is somehow apologising for not understanding his wife and the movie star she was. His character is simply called Paul in the play and with Finishing the Picture this is almost like a confessional. Paul says “he failed, he could not save her” – at the same time, reminding the audience of her upbringing, her need for survival. This is a tribute play. Miller had true affection for Monroe and with Finishing The Picture, this is clearly on show. An incredible look at the power of and the absurdity of unchecked ego. Phil Willmott’s skilful direction expertly bringing this passionate play to life.