Moonlight and Magnolias

Date 22nd April 2016
Society Harleston Players
Venue Archbishop Sancroft High School
Type of Production Play
Director Joe Edwards (Prod Helen Farrar/David Cumming)

Report

Author: Terry Rymer

Not often do we find a play which is based not just on a true story, but containing  real life characters who are in themselves larger than anything created in a movie biopic!

  The filming of the ‘blockbuster’ ‘Gone With The Wind’ was it seems, fraught with difficulties for the Producer, not least the sacking of the original Director George Cukor and the screenwriter Sidney Howard before he embarks on an unlikely but career saving plan to rewrite the whole screenplay in 5 days (FIVE days!!)...and here our story really takes off. Producer David O. Selznick (Barry Givens) having acquired the movie rights to the novel for a record sum is desperate to save his money and his career and no doubt his marriage to the daughter of MGM movie mogul Louis B. Meyer, his business partner! His was a performance which had a slow burn as his hysteria to achieve a result from newly appointed screenwriter, with a reputation for last minute reversals of fortune, rose to the highest levels. We felt his anxiety and shared his frustrations but also empathised with his dilemma, but history favours the brave! A great moment as he remained ‘frozen’ in disbelief for several minutes until a very realistic slap, from Victor reawakens his suspended anxiety! Perhaps genius will come out on top...and that genius in this case was the altogether laid back newly appointed screenwriter  Ben Hecht (Roy Goodwin), given the agreed five days to rewrite the plot for ‘Gone With The Wind’, and he hadn’t even read the Book!! We really grew to admire the casual confidence that Roy brought to this role with the undoubted zeal that it would all come out ‘ok’...he was the original ‘last minute dot com’...enough chutzpah (is that a Jewish word?) to satisfy any passionate  Zionist...of which he was one! This pair really did make this play feel like a total satire of the situation. Add to this the ever doubtful view of new GWTW Director Victor Fleming (Steve Askew) and you had the real 5000 to 1 outsider (Hmm!) coming good against all the odds! His masculine depiction of ‘child birth’ with all the sound effects was hilarious! We just loved Ben’s attitude, “Yes...No ...Kinda...The end!” and the straight fee negotiation of Victor (rather than taking an ‘unlikely’ percentage from the film’s proceeds!) a bad decision if ever there was one! Miss Poppenghul ( Dawn Symonds) relished her somewhat stereotyped but none the less great performance as the archetypal secretary to Selznick. One line sums her up...her boss says a million people say “Yes!” she says “Yes Mr Selsnick”...her perpetual response!! A small but enjoyable cameo for her and the audience! 

  This unlikely scenario was almost too surreal to be true which made the success of the film all the more amazing and gave the whole piece that extra realism which, even allowing for the not too subtle irony of the writer (of this play), and the expertise of this experienced and talented cast, was a most enjoyable and entertaining piece of theatre...perhaps it should be turned into...a  FILM!!?

  Well done first time Director Joe Edwards who will find his skills stretched just a little further as he undertakes ‘gangs’of kids for Harleston’s next production ‘Oliver’!

...We will, ‘Review’ the Situation!

Ps.  Harleston won NODA Dist 6 Best Overall Production Shield for their 2015 show  Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’