The iconic white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in a Hollywood movie has been re-created for the autumn season opener at Theatr Clwyd.
The dress, a feature in the film The Seven Year Itch, plays a key role in the new production of Terry Johnson’s comedy Insignificance, which opens this week.
Insignificance takes four iconic faces of the post Second World War era in America – Marilyn Monroe, her husband, New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio, physicist Albert Einstein and communist witch-hunter Senator Joe McCarthy – and explores their explosive interaction in an imagined meeting in a hotel room in New York in 1953.
The action of the play takes place through the course of a single night at The Lincoln Hotel, immediately after the film shoot of the famous skirt-blowing scene which created one of the most famous and enduring images of Marilyn Monroe, vintage Hollywood’s most admired and desired star.
Director Billy Wilder took four hours to film the sequence on the street, with a crowd of 5,000 gathered to watch the shoot which began at 1am. With Marilyn repeatedly fluffing her lines, they were to continue for another four hours and numerous takes.
The white dress, described as the most famous in cinema history, is worn in the show by actress Sophie Melville. It was made by Theatr Clwyd’s wardrobe department, from an initial sketch by designer Amy-Jane Cook.
The original white dress was finally owned by Debbie Reynolds and sold at auction in 2011 for $4.6 million.
Sophie said: “I’m thrilled to wear the white dress and play the part of Marilyn – it’s a dream, it really is. It’s been hard work because it’s the first time I’ve played a character who is a real person.
“I’ve tried to take on her quality but at the same time make the part my own rather than try to impersonate her. The main thing was getting the voice right and once I’d got that everything just fell into place.”
The show’s director Kate Wasserberg returns to Theatr Clwyd following her production of All My Sons last year.
She said: “Insignificance is a play I’ve wanted to direct since I saw it at my local theatre when I was 12 or 13 years old. My dad took me along and thought we were going to see The Kiss of the Spiderwoman but it wasn’t on.
“Even though I was very young, there are several moments from the play that are seared into my memory. I remember laughing a lot. It’s a play about politics, life, love and the stars. Terry Johnson’s work is incredibly intelligent, it works on several levels at once but, line for line, it’s properly funny. I read his plays and laugh out loud.”
Insignificance, performed in the round, is in the Emlyn Williams Theatre at Theatr Clwyd until October 15. More details online (theatrclwyd.com) or the Box Office on 01352 701521.