MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS
by Ron Hutchinson.
Watermill Theatre Bagnor RG20 8AE To 11 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Saturday 2.30pm except 11 June 1.30pm & 6.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 20 May, 3 June.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01635 46044 .
Review: Mark Courtice 9 May.
It was a terrible novel but the film turned out all right, and so does the play.
Producer David O Selznick has fired the last of the long line of writers on his huge film version of Gone With The Wind. Production has been shut down and he’s looking for a new director. He buys 5 days of writer Ben Hecht’s time, unceremoniously pulls director Victor Fleming off The Wizard of Oz and locks them in his office to come up with a script.
From this (apparently true) starting point Hutchinson constructs an epic comedy as these three struggle to take a terrible hit novel and turn it into a good film. Fuelled by peanuts and bananas (Selznick thinks they are good for the brain) they try to encapsulate a story that takes over a thousand pages to tell, with Selznick and Fleming acting out the big moments for Hecht who’s not managed to get past page one of the novel.
While having fun with the film’s tacky source, and with the sweaty pressure of the creative process, Hutchinson’s also interested in the outsider status of the three men. They live in fear of being forced out of the Hollywood studio that looms out of the window in Ben Stones’ clever set. He uses the diminutive stage to make Selznick’s office a creative Turkish bath, while also springing surprises in a bravura paper-strewn sequence of writerly mayhem.
Here it’s the mad rushing about, and the creative tensions translated into farce that interest director Mark Rosenblatt, but he has a company of three actors who can deal with the deeper stuff. That’s not to say that Kim Wall’s Selznick isn’t terrific as Scarlet O’Hara, all wriggling décolletage and Southern fiddle-de-di, while Brian Protheroe’s beefy Fleming is magnificently block-like as Rhett Butler.
Richard Attlee as Hecht gets the best lines of waspish distain for Margaret Mitchell (Gone With The Wind’s author) but also the meat of the political argument – the scene when he makes a sequence of calls to demonstrate to Selznick that as a Jew he’s not going to be accepted as an American is much the best in the play and both actors make the most of it.
Ben Hecht: Richard Attlee.
Miss Poppenghul: Karen Mann.
Victor Fleming: Brian Protheroe.
David O Selznick: Kim Wall.
Director: Mark Rosenblatt.
Designer: Ben Stones.
Lighting: David Holmes.
Sound/Composer: Tom Mills.