Last Days of an Icon

“You… men have been calling all the shots and, what? We simply gawp and take what you say as gospel?”

Pat Newcomb

Genevieve Gaunt as Marilyn Monroe. (Photo: NUX Photography)

She was an iconic actress and beautiful.  I knew that she had had a troubled childhood but wasn’t really aware of the circumstances of her death.  St Albans writer Vicki McKellar has studied the inconsistencies surrounding Marilyn’s alleged probable suicide and, in conjunction with Guy Masterson, has penned The Marilyn Conspiracy for the stage. 

The play has cut scenes flashing back to the week before her death but concentrates on what happened in the five hours from finding that she had died to reporting this to the police. Marilyn (Genevieve Gaunt) was found by her devoted housekeeper Eunice Murray (Sally Mortemore) unconscious at 10.35pm on Sunday 4th August 1962 and by 11.40pm she was declared dead.  

Genevieve Gaunt as Marilyn Monroe. (Photo: NUX Photography)

Her doctor, Dr Ralph Greenson (David Calvito) had given Marilyn an injection of adrenaline but she died.  There are seven people gathered in Marilyn’s bungalow that night.  Eunice her housekeeper and Marilyn’s Press Secretary, Pat Newcomb (Susie Amy).  Dr Greenson, her psychiatrist is there with his wife Hildi (Angela Bull) and Marilyn’s physician Dr Hyman Engelberg (Maurey Richards).  Probably most significantly and with obvious connections to the Kennedy family are Peter Lawford (Declan Bennett) and his wife Patricia Kennedy-Lawford (Natasha Colenso). 

Just a few months earlier Marilyn had sung “Happy Birthday” to the President in Madison Square Gardens.  Just before her death on the Saturday, she had threatened to give a press conference the following Monday, divulging her Kennedy secrets.  This would have been very damaging to President Kennedy, his brother Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General and the Democratic Party.  In the play, Marilyn tells us Bobby had promised he would leave his wife Ethel.

I wish I had seen more of Genevieve Gaunt’s first scene as Marilyn Monroe.  The stage is set on an almost imperceptibly slow revolve and for a quarter of an hour, on our side of the square, we could only see Marilyn’s back.  In the next scene she was blocked by party guests standing to drink their champagne.  I don’t know whether the row of extra chairs were there to help with demand after the cancelled press night the previous Monday, when Vicki McKellar was too ill to play Patricia Kennedy-Lawford.  I’m surprised at this direction faux pas when Guy Masterson directed my favourite play of 2021 The Shark is Broken.

Declan Bennett as Peter Lawford. (Photo: NUX Photography)

The performances are sound but standing out for me is Declan Bennett as Peter Lawford (seen two reviews ago as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar) who is the person they all listen to.  Bennett has the tall good looks of Lawford and the air of authority.  Lawford’s later marital history identifies him as much of a womaniser as his Kennedy brothers in law.  I also liked Susie Amy as Pat Newcomb whose close conversations with Marilyn are a part of the flashback scenes.  Genevieve Gaunt’s Marilyn is also very believable with her flirtatious and endearing giggle.  Sally Mortemore does an excellent job as the housekeeper distraught and confused by the loss of her employer and knowing who else came to the house that day looking for Marilyn’s diary.

I won’t spoil the ending except to say if I had been given one of those voting gadgets at the end of the play, I wouldn’t hesitate on my verdict.

Interesting play but maybe not as revelatory as we had hoped.

Susie Amy as Pat Newcombe (Photo: NUX Photography)

Production Notes

The Marilyn Conspiracy

Written by Vicki McKellar and Guy Masterson

Directed by Guy Masterson



Angela Bull

David Calvitto

Declan Bennett

Genevieve Gaunt

Maurey Richards

Sally Mortemore

Susie Amy

Natasha Colenso


Director: Guy Masterson

Set Designer:  Sarah June Mills

Composer and Sound Designer:

Jack Arnold

Lighting Designer: Tom Turner


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Booking to 27th July 2024


Park 200

Clifton Terrace
Finsbury Park

London N4 3JP


Tube: Finsbury Park

Phone020 7870 6876

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Park Theatre 

on 27th June 2024