Sunset Boulevard, The Mayflower


Ria Jones is back in Sunset Boulevard

As soon as you walk into the auditorium, take to your seat and pass a glance over the stage, you can feel you have walked into something deep and powerful. The opening scene began by still water projected onto two grey planks whilst one of the main protagonists, Joe Gillis, played by Dougie Carter, took to the stage. There was a sense of tranquillity and peacefulness with the water, and if you hadn’t seen or heard of Sunset Boulevard before the show you wouldn’t have expected the dribble of blood that filled the water projection. Suddenly the stillness turned to confusion and a murder mystery.

The time turned back 6 months where you learnt of Gillis’ character, a struggling screenwriter desperately looking for work at Paramount Pictures, asking people ‘Let’s have lunch’ to offer his writing services. In a car chase, Joe stumbles upon a mansion where he enters and there she stands, the woman of the hour; Norma Desmond, played by Ria Jones, a role in which Jones knows all too well.

As she takes to the stage, at the top of the stairs, she immediately empowers all.  Later she breaks out into her song ‘With one Look’ and you are instantaneously mesmerised through the emotion and passion towards Norma’s desire to return into show business. She learns she can get there with the help of Gillis, who offers to edit her script, Salome, even though he knows it will never be produced. Soon her obsessions with making it back to stardom and keeping Gillis in her life take over and you see how she descends to the depths of despair when reality kicks in.

Ria Jones perfectly plays Norma Desmond’s character as a woman with a high ego, but suffering with manic depression. A significant set change to display key scenes have vintage cameras and tripod lights recording it, differentiating between reality and film and representing how Desmond see’s the world. An ingenious evolving set display allowed the actors themselves to change the scene from Paramount Pictures to Desmond’s mansion. Projections of the 1950’s movie by Billy Wilder, are displayed in the background to immerse you into the picture itself alongside the spectacular orchestra who developed the dramatic emotions.

With the final climatic scenes coming to a close the auditorium took to its feet as the actors ran out to give their final farewells. The cheers grew louder as Ria Jones took centre stage in her pearl beads and gold gown to take her final bows.

This musical came about from Andrew Lloyd Webber who decided to turn Billy Wilder’s motion picture into a musical. He placed it on stage in 1991 with Ria Jones playing Norma. This revised version stripped Sunset Boulevard’s gothic charm with an attempt to create a musical more humorous. Others did not agree. The play was turned back into its original self and was brought back out in 1994 where it ran for 3 years. Today we continue to watch the 1994 version with Ria Jones as Norma Desmond.

Tickets available at The Mayflower until 20th January.