Marlane Gomard Meyer
Timothy Hughes Productions in association with Weaver Hughes Ensemble
This wry and sometimes moving look at an overtly capitalist world through the prism of the porn industry started life in the UK at the Royal Court in 1990, starring Miranda Richardson in the title role. Its gritty character perfectly fits their style but another Court regular, Ché Walker, has revived it at the Finborough with great panache and a very strong cast.
The design by Ana Jebens features a backdrop showing circling sharks. To make the point, the bloody tide discomfortingly leaks from the painting onto the stage.
Daniela Nardini from This Life plays the heroine, a girl who starts as an ingénue arriving in LA sure that she will be the next Monroe. However, needs must and soon she meets chubby Ben, a man played by Glenn Conroy who admits that "I am an asshole", is in love with chunky gold jewellery and specialises in enticing girls into seamier end of the porn industry.
Soon Etta has made and spent a fortune, before Ben chucks her over in Mexico. From there, rather surprisingly, she doesn't follow her friend Sheri (Indra Ove). Like the impressive image of a tooth that dissolves in coke, this pretty lady quickly goes into a downward spiral of prostitution, drugs and an ultimate death in one of Ben's snuff movies.
Instead, Etta meets Clarke Peters' Spencer, a real philosopher amongst porn barons. He employs her as a "talent coordinator" replacing the horribly scuzzy (and not terribly believable) James. In this role, she attains a maturity that allows her to end the play by mothering a girl who wants to follow in her footsteps.
As well as good performances from Mesdames Nardini and Ove and Mr Peters, Mido Hamada shows real talent as a character actor in a series of parts including a Yale-educated hit man and memorable deaf and blind (respectively) brothers.
Ché Walker's often funny production takes us into a subset of society where money is everything and only the fittest survive. He makes Etta Jenks seem as fresh now as it must have done first time around and should prove a well-deserved hit for the Finborough.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher