The Trial of Jane Fonda***+ (Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 14, 2014 in Theatre

trial-of-jane-fondaIn June 1988, the double Oscar winning Hollywood actress Jane Fonda went to Waterbury, Connecticut to shoot scenes for Stanley and Iris, along with her co-star Robert De Niro. She found herself a pariah in a town which was populated by an unusually high proportion of war veterans, branded a traitor for the stand that she had taken against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 70s. This play, written and directed by Terry Jastrow, tells of a confrontation between Fonda and a group of the veterans which was, in effect, a trial. Somewhat ironically, the play takes the shape of Twelve Angry Men, one of the most famous films of Fonda’s father Henry, as we see a single figure seeking to convert dissenters, one by one. Ironically also, Fonda was seen as little more than a nuisance by the US Government and Military who she opposed, but as a demon by the fighting men whose cause was closest to her heart. Here, she admits that she had been hot headed and made mistakes, but she remains passionate in her beliefs that the Vietnam War was wrong and that the actions of US Presidents, particularly Nixon, amounted to genocide. From the perspective of the modern day, it is impossible to argue with her, but, in 1988, the wounds were still open. This is all fascinating and the arguments are generally well presented, with the aid of newsreel footage, except that the same points are repeated too often. Anne Archer is cool and composed as the beleaguered film star, as indeed Fonda may have been in 1988, unlike the fiery image of “Hanoi Jane” of a decade and more earlier. Occasionally, when the verbal interchanges become a little stodgy, dramatic flash points, that look somewhat cooked up, are inserted and the ending is 110% Hollywood. Otherwise, this is an intelligent and intriguing play.

Performance date: 14 August 2014

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