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Judy Garland drama shows her battle with drugs
Tracie Bennett plays Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow at Northampton's Royal & Derngate
Garland battled with alcohol and drugs for most of her life

Judy Garland's comeback tour in 1968 is the subject of the Royal & Derngate's latest production in Northampton.

The Hollywood star, famous for the classic film The Wizard of Oz, appeared at the Talk of the Town in London less than a year before her death.

Peter Quilter's play with music, End of the Rainbow, shows how Garland battled with drugs and alcohol.

Quilter said he wanted to write a play about a "tormented performer" who couldn't cope any more.

Although the first drafts of the play were fictional, Quilter said that it became clear he was writing about the Hollywood legend.

"It was sailing so close to Judy Garland that I thought we might as well go the whole hog."

Addicted to You

End of the Rainbow is part of the Royal & Derngate theatre's Addicted to You season which focuses on modern-day addictions such as drugs and alcohol.

Judy Garland is seen in her London hotel room battling with drugs and alcohol as she undertakes an exhausting series of concerts in a bid to reclaim her crown as the greatest talent of her generation.

She is a tough but flawed woman. The person who plays her on stage, Tracie Bennett, likened Garland's addictions to those of present-day performers.

"It's still going on more than you know: the Amy Winehouses, the Michael Jacksons and the Brittany Murphys. And ordinary people too - people who're not in the theatre - who mix their [prescription] tablets without realising."

Bennett thinks she would have "loved" Judy Garland if she had the chance to meet her, but not her "total addiction".

"Sometimes you think: 'Are you really that weak? Why don't you ever go to rehab? Why are you in denial? Why do you keep making these stupid mistakes over and over again?'"

Bennett added that Garland was gifted but could be a monster: "She was quite cruel and game-playing and manipulative. I don't know if you're born like that or the tablets make you like that."

'Super damaged'

Judy Garland in London, 1968.
The real Judy Garland visiting London in 1968

Hilton McRae plays Garland's pianist and musical director, a fictional character called Anthony. He described the Hollywood star as "super talented and super damaged."

He believes that Garland's addiction was due to her upbringing: "She was given drugs at the age of 14 to carry on in The Wizard of Oz. She was hooked at the age of 15."

In the play, Stephen Hagan plays Micky Deans, Garland's fifth and final husband. They married in London in March 1969 three months before her death of a drugs overdose.

"There was so much to love about her," said Hagan.

"Micky Deans is drawn in by the legend and the myth of her.

He added: "Once he gets into that inner circle he realises that it's not all roses and rainbows."

End of the Rainbow runs at the Royal & Derngate until 20 February. The company have "high hopes" that the production will later transfer to London's West End.




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