Moonlight and Magnolias review

PUBLISHED: 13:04 07 April 2013 | UPDATED: 13:04 07 April 2013

Victor Fleming (Christopher Wallace) David O. Selznick (Clive Weatherley) and Ben Hecht (Patrick Sunners) in Moonlight and Magnolias at the Barn Theatre in WGC [Picture: John Davies]

Victor Fleming (Christopher Wallace) David O. Selznick (Clive Weatherley) and Ben Hecht (Patrick Sunners) in Moonlight and Magnolias at the Barn Theatre in WGC [Picture: John Davies]

John Davies

COMEDY Moonlight & Magnolias played at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Joseph Kerr reviews the theatre’s latest production.

An exhausted Victor Fleming (Christopher Wallace) and David O. Selznick (Clive Weatherley) in the latter's banana-peel strewn Hollywood office in Moonlight and Magnolias at the Barn Theatre [Picture: John Davies]An exhausted Victor Fleming (Christopher Wallace) and David O. Selznick (Clive Weatherley) in the latter's banana-peel strewn Hollywood office in Moonlight and Magnolias at the Barn Theatre [Picture: John Davies]

RON Hutchinson’s comedy is based on a real life event – the re-writing of the script of Hollywood blockbuster Gone With The Wind following the sacking of both the previous screenwriter and director.

Ben Hecht is the new screenwriter, and only has five days to complete the job. Unfortunately, he is one of the few Americans never to have read the book, so to help him through the task producer David O. Selznick and replacement director Victor Fleming act out the story for him while he bashes away at the typewriter.

I don’t know how true to the facts the story is, and I don’t much care – what I do know is that Hutchinson’s play is a little comic masterpiece, showing the descent of the three participants into a sleepless nightmare as they struggle to get the job done, living off peanuts and bananas (“brain fuel” according to Selznick) and covering every inch of the office floor with banana skins and crumpled paper.

There’s a serious side as well, as Hecht, ably played by Patrick Sunners, castigates Selznick and Hollywood in general for their refusal to reflect the reality of the imminent war with Nazi Germany.

Moonlight & Magnolias plays at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden CityMoonlight & Magnolias plays at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

But the joy of the piece lies in the re-enactment of the novel, with Clive Weatherley as Selznick giving an hilarious impersonation of Scarlett O’Hara, Christopher Wallace’s Fleming in a startling demonstration of childbirth, and most impressive of all, a beautifully choreographed scene in which all three of them slap and get slapped in a try-out of Scarlett’s assault on a black slave.

And I mustn’t omit mention of Wendy Bage’s delightful cameo performance as Miss Poppenguhl, Selznick’s long-suffering secretary.

Good acting, slick direction by Jack Wood, and a superbly realistic set combined to make this a most professional and entertaining evening’s theatre. I shall certainly look out for other work by Ron Hutchinson.


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