'Mary Pickford may have been America’s sweetheart,’ Mae West is recorded to have said, ‘but I’m their wet dream.’
At the start of Stephen’s Sewell’s new play, Arbus & West, West, in her late seventies, wisecracks sexily with audiences around the United States and jibes with her long-suffering dresser and personal assistant, Ruby (played with poise and perfect-pitch by Jennifer Vuletic). As she rests during interval, the famous actress and singer’s witty sense of being irresistible seems undimmed, until Ruby tells her that the photographer Diane Arbus has died. It was suicide, she continues. West is rattled but feigns indifference. She is surprised, she says; surely there were enough people who wanted to kill Arbus, without her needing to do the deed herself?