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Theatre Review: Moonlight and Magnolias

29 February 20 words: Rebecca Buck

We checked out Moonlight and Magnolias, the whirlwind story of three men locked in a room for five days writing the script for Gone with the Wind, at Nottingham Playhouse...

Moonlight and Magnolias, written by Ron Hutchinson and directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, is a comedy about the writing of Gone With the Wind. It delivers both laughs and a glimpse at the Hollywood of the 1930s, with perfect set and lighting design. But it feels like it could so much further. This is probably as result of the times in which the audience now lives, rather than any fault of the play itself. Against a back drop of #MeToo, Trump, the fight for diversity in the movie industry - and more - the script could've had something profound to say. Instead, the comedy breaks to allow observations on racism and anti-semitism, but they sit awkward and unaddressed. Although that could be the point, of course. 

This is not to take away from the comedy; it's mostly an excellent farce. Producer, David O Selznick, has just stopped production on Gone With the Wind. He cajoles writer, Ben Hecht (who has never read the book) and director, Victor Fleming (who has to be wrenched away from the set of The Wizard of Oz) to help him rewrite and relaunch it, then locks them in a room with nothing but bananas and peanuts for sustenance.
It delivers both laughs and a glimpse at the Hollywood of the 1930s, with perfect set and lighting design
The three, played respectively by Joe Alessi, Dan Fredenburgh, and Oscar Pearce, are all very different characters with significant ego, and the actors make them largely dynamic and sympathetic. Pearce is perhaps the most magnetic of the actors, his performance the most natural and seeming least 'rehearsed'. The comic timing only missed its mark occasionally; most jokes found the laughs they were seeking. 
For a play set in one room, focused on just three actors - and the secondary character of Miss Poppenghul, the exasperated secretary (Hayley Doherty) -  this production does well to keep our attention. The pace is constant, the physical action maintained throughout. The fight scene is very well choreographed. 
If you love Gone With the Wind, this comedy look at the world and characters that created it will entertain, especially with plentiful references to the content of the film. If you don't, the comedy is perhaps a little too contrived, the social and cultural comment a little too light, to give the play real purpose and relevance. Nonetheless, it's a very enjoyable couple of hours at The Playhouse. 
Moonlight and Magnolias is at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 7 March