End of the Rainbow, Trafalgar Studios, London

5.00

 

Watching End of the Rainbow, it's hard to believe that Judy Garland is dead, so closely does Tracie Bennett resemble her, bodily and in spirit. In Peter Quilter's play – a depiction of the one-time Dorothy's final fight for the limelight in the months before her death from an accidental drug overdose – Bennett nimbly rasps and cackles, seeming to speak and sing with the late actress's voice. Her triumphant performance shows Garland wrestling with a medley of addictions – to barbiturates, Benzedrine, Ritalin and other "adult candy" as well as to alcohol, men and applause. Her characterisation is at once alluring, in its dizzy abandon, and terrifying, as you watch a fragile person heading for the brink.

In the luxurious London hotel room which provides the setting for much of the action, we see Garland leaning out of the window perilously greeting "adoring fans" who are actually mesmerised by the spectacle of her suicide. We see her rowing with her toyboy fiancé Mickey Deans (a smouldering Stephen Hagan), and crawling on the floor begging for drugs, booze, anything. But her pencilled on face remains intact throughout, and she's not wrong when she cries: "I could vomit my dinner into their laps and still be glamorous."

Hilton McRae plays Garland's put upon yet devoted pianist Anthony brilliantly. His touching performance adds gentle humour to moments which would otherwise seem lost to the hysterical. When Garland shrieks "You homo!" at Mickey during a blazing row, Anthony remarks wryly: "No dear, I'm the homo."

Despite having vowed to get her off uppers, Mickey administers Garland drugs in an effort to stave off the tantrums and – most importantly – to keep her performing. Anthony is desperate to rescue her. But both men seem unable to stop the freight train of dementedness. Garland appears doped up on BBC radio, is carried in drunk by a hotel porter and repeatedly sobs like a child into the carpet.

Terry Johnson's production is a tremendous, if painful, tribute to Garland. Bennett is stunning and exhausting to watch; a star playing a star. "Immortality would be nice. Yes I'd like that," she says at the play's close. "Immortality might just make up for everything."

To 5 March (020 7907 7071)

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'