“Moonlight & Magnolias” b y Ron Hutchinson
Five weeks into filming “Gone With The Wind”, the most eagerly awaited and expensive movie of all time, producer David O Selznick (Joe Alessi), fires the director and stops filming. With his reputation on the line, and a determination to fulfil his vision of making a truly great movie, he pulls Victor Fleming (Oscar Pearce) off the set of “The Wizard of Oz” and commissions script-doctor, Ben Hecht (Dan Fredenburgh) , to rewrite the screen play.
The problem is that they have just five days and the added complication that Hecht is one of the few people in Hollywood who hasn’t read the novel! The three are locked into Selznick’s office with Selznick and Fleming reduced to re-enacting the story to a baffled Hecht.
Fuelled only by peanuts and bananas, tension builds, exhaustion sets in but from the midst of chaos emerges the biggest Hollywood blockbuster of all time. The only other person privy to this havoc is Selznick’s secretary, Miss Poppenghul (Hayley Doherty).
However you describe the comedy stylings, whether it be farce, slapstick, and there is plenty of both, this play is comedy through and through. This is ramped up when Selznick and Fleming start to act out the story and all of the characters to Hecht. There’s some brilliant comic lines in this script and the some very physical comedy.
What hits you first, after the curtain has lifted, is the well designed and observed set by Tim Meacock. Everything has been thought of, including water sprinklers form the roof. It is stylish, and even down to the reception for Selznick’s secretary, Miss Poppenghul, which we only see through the blinds through the window and a door.
Directed by Kirsty Patrick-Ward, she has brought out the energy and comedy of the script. In a play that all takes place in just the one self contained set, she, along with the four actors of course, make this play utterly magnetic to watch. That also is thanks to the never ending script, and there are swathes of it, and it's all funny.
Then there is the technical side of this show, The shy outside the office window which lets us know at what stage of the writing we are at; from early morning to the middle of the night, and then the video design, reminding us of the film itself and the stars, bringing the play full circle.
The timing is everything with farce, and comedy whatever the description, and when you look at the "Slapping" scene and the fight scene, you can appreciate the time that these two scenes in particular must have taken to get to the standard we get to see.
A great look back to the time of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the behind the scenes glimpse of the pressurised atmosphere that Producers, Directors and Script Writers probably had to work under.
All four actors Joe Alessi, Dan Fredenburgh, Oscar Pearce and Hayley Doherty are excellent in their roles. Oscar and Joe's re-enactment of the scenes for Hecht are hilarious, in particular the birthing scene. Their energy is to be admired because this play is non-stop, and they have us rooting for them to get this play re-written ready for the film's production.
There is a fifth actor involved though that we never see. The very talented Robin Bowerman who does all of the voice over work in this play.
Within the comic lines and comedy acting, there are some serious topics touched on. The slapping scene of the young black maid, and whether this should be shown in the film, racism and sexism, but just as we get a hint of these subjects, along comes another wave of comedy.
And we also discover where that classic phrase "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" comes from, or is that just poetic licence? Well it is the (almost) true story isn't it?
Great fun. Great energy and four great stage actors. Great shame if you miss it! You'll either go bananas for this show or go nuts for it; and if you don't catch on to what I did there, then go get a ticket.
“Moonlight & Magnolias” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 7 March