End Of The Rainbow
Churchill Theatre Bromley
9 March 2016
End Of The Rainbow is Peter Quilter’s behind the scenes look at Judy Garland during her great run of shows at London’s Talk Of The Town. Just weeks into her relationship with Mickey Deans, Garland, free for the first time from crippling contractual obligations is finally on the path to financial freedom.
Quilter’s play is presented as an intimate four hander, such is the nature of Garland’s life that she was the epicentre of the universe that revolved around her.
Lisa Maxwell plays Judy. It’s a performance that melds a mass of contradictions and a roller-coaster of emotions into a raw, convincing and utterly compelling performance. On-stage for most of the evening, Maxwell is astonishing.
Set almost entirely in a London hotel suite, the action moves occasionally to the Talk Of The Town allowing Judy to perform some of her legendary songs – The Man That Got Away is particularly effective and displays Maxwell’s ability to move beyond basic impersonation to deliver a dramatic performance with unbelievable emotional intensity.
Sam Attwater as Mickey Deans, gives a strong performance as the younger fiancé. There is little doubt that Deans ended up putting financial gain ahead of his relationship Garland (at least in Quilter’s telling of the tale), but you must wonder if he honestly realised just what that association might entail, opting for a return to controlled medication when the going got too much.
Gary Wilmot plays Anthony Chapman, an amalgam of Garland’s many musical accompanists. Strong, seemingly sincere and completely in love with Garland, the gay Chapman, is very much the combined voice of the public and Garland’s die-hard fans in this piece. Wilmot’s is a solid performance, full of warmth, a calming influence compared to the volatile Garland and the manipulative Deans.
Quilter has very carefully crafted the roles of both Deans and Chapman in End Of The Rainbow to show that no matter the motive Garland was a force of nature that could not be tamed. Garland was the end-product of a range of exceptional influences. Many believed they could help Garland, but ultimately, she would be master of her own fate and the tragedy of the piece lies in the fact that nobody could stop that.
Daniel Buckroyd’s production is slick and helps the audience navigate it’s way through the emotionally exhaustive world of Garland. He is aided by David Shield’s set which manoeuvres between various locations effortlessly.
End Of the Rainbow is not a saccharine, remembrance of the great Judy Garland, there is quite a bit of adult language, sexual suggestion and drug and alcohol abuse. What is presented is a complex study of one of the greatest entertainers of our time.
Soon after the events in End Of The Rainbow, Garland would be dead, and the world would mourn a performer who touched many. I found Wilmott’s last speech describing Garland’s funeral, paid for by Frank Sinatra and the small gathering of Garland’s piano players at the back of the church, to be moving and an interesting epilogue to the evening’s proceedings.