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Adore Me at Camden People’s Theatre

She’s going to be a star, she’s got to be a star, she needs to be a star, or so she keeps telling us. Adore Me tells us the story of Jessie Johnson, a woman obsessed with fame, in a story set in the wild world of dance marathons, all told through a less-than-daring play.

Sophie Atherton in Adore Me.
Sophie Atherton in Adore Me.

Dance marathons, for the few of you who weren’t part of the craze, were a bizarre obsession in the 1920s where contestants would dance for months at a time to win cash prizes. What a time. When we meet Jessie (Sophie Atherton), she wants to sing at one of these ludicrous events. When she arrives, she wants to be with Jack Shepherd, the charismatic belle of the ball. When she’s with Jack she wants Hollywood. So, as I am sure you have clocked it is fame and success that Jessie really wants. Atherton is funny from the get-go, charismatically satirising that unattractive trope in musicals about “I’m going to be a star”.

That’s pretty much it in terms of plot, we get the occasional obstacle but for the most part, it’s just how she gets what she wants. And that is probably the problem with this play, despite the absurd subject matter it is oddly flat. Yes, it is funny and satirises so many Hollywood tropes, but repetitive jokes about how narcissistic she is tire quickly, and the play never really goes beyond a ridicule of her character.

The performance given by Atherton is mixed. Clear comedic ability comes through, but jokes become overdone and the narrative’s singular focus does not allow the comedic spirit of the play to move in new directions. I think that problem is mainly down to writing, Atherton holds the audience well, but struggles when going beyond the caricature of our protagonist, giving us a performance that misses opportunities to further ridicule the world in which the character exists.

I think I’m being too harsh, Atherton is funny, and the bizarre world of dance marathons along with her charismatic comedy make for an entertaining 50 minutes, just don’t go in expecting anything remotely profound or particularly thought-provoking.

2 gold stars

Review by Tom Carter

It’s 1934. Jessie Johnson, a Jazz singer in a New York Dance Marathon, discovers what lengths she will go to in order to find fame.

It’s 1934. Eager for stardom, Jessie sees her chance in the Dance Marathons which are sweeping the nation; the 24-hour dance competitions which have made the careers of young jazz singers just like Jessie. Obsessively tuning into the daily radio broadcasts from the Marathon floor, Jessie fanatically follows the lives of the contestants. But she never believes she could be part of this world. And with everyone on the circuit as hungry as she is, Jessie soon learns how cutthroat she must be to become a star.

Adore Me is a story of ambition, betrayal and one girl’s desperation for fame.

Wed 19 Apr – Thu 20 Apr, 9 pm 2023



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