Arthur Miller’s Finishing the Picture, the final play before his death, is a brutal self-examination into the playwright’s marriage to one of the world’s most iconic figures, Marilyn Monroe.
The play centres on persuading Kitty, Monroe in all-but-name, to finish the film’s production that is five weeks overdue. We never see Kitty in the flesh, but she is the centripetal force around which every character revolves. They are bound to her, or rather, need her, and this is essentially where the fault line exists. In spite of efforts to cajole, coerce, coax and convince Kitty into performing, there is a weighted sense of futility in the cast’s efforts. Nobody has a keener sense of this futility than Kitty’s own husband, Paul (Jeremy Drake), the film’s writer. Cutting a dour figure, he warns the agitated ‘money-man’ film producer Philip (Oliver le Sueur) and the suave director Derek (Stephen Billington) that even she does not know what she wants.
The intimate setting of the Finborough Theatre provides a perfect foreground for Miller’s innermost thinking to unpack. Herein, the audience are given a rare glimpse into the dark imperfections of Monroe’s character and how those in her orbit, superbly brought to life by the performing ensemble, struggle to pacify her mercurial tendencies.
Finishing the Picture is playing at the Finborough Theatre until July 7th.