Edinburgh Festival: Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies (3 stars)

Success is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, people often say. In Jessica Sherr’s one woman show, she plays the 1930s screen idol Bette Davis who, it becomes apparent, was driven by almost superhuman self-belief.

Sherr – who bears a striking resemblance to Davis – captures the tenacity of a woman who had to fight for her career and two Oscars. “Not one but TWO,” she repeatedly proclaims.

We meet Bette on the eve of a possible third, after the papers have leaked that she is about to lose out to Vivien Leigh. Having worked with Davis’s former assistant, Kathryn Sermak – who has given her a pair of the star’s original gloves – this punchy performance paints an honest and insightful picture of the hard work behind the casual glamour of the era’s publicity shots.

Davis is portrayed as a classic diva; ambitious and determined and strong – and facing up to the Hollywood studio system, she needs to be. While we don’t really get to see another side of her, we do get to experience what it was like to be a woman in an industry that was, and perhaps still is, controlled by men.

Written for The Scotsman

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