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Review of Moonlight And Magnolias at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I have a confession to make from the outset here, I have neither read or have any recollection of ever having seen the movie Gone With The Wind. Incredible for sure for such a classic, but I feel certain that if I had watched a four hour film at any point in my life, I might have remembered it.

This allowed me to feel the pain of the conscripted screenwriter Ben Hecht (Jof Davies), who hasn't read the book, as producer David O Selznick (Graham Follett) and Victor Fleming (Victor Guse) attempt to bring the novel to life in front of him. There are times that writer Ron Hutchinson perhaps makes Moonlight and Magnolias a little too wordy, however it does make the shear panic of the five day script writing our pain as well as those trapped in this cramped office with no other company than bananas, peanuts and occasional startled visits from Selznick's confused assistant Miss Poppenguhl (a nice performance of descending panic from Kate Ellis).

It's a fun and chaotic play based, so we are led to be believed, on relatively true events of the desperate (and successful) attempt to finish the script for the 1024 page book in five days. The cast of four are all great in their roles and for the best part deliver their lines in confident American accents. Wide-eyed and frequently distraught Ben Hecht is perfect in the hands of the superb Jof Davies, allowing once again with a larger role (and his first for Playhouse) the ability to flesh out that strong character skill that he has.

Graham Follett making his final appearance after twelve years with the Playhouse is his usual assured self in the role of producer Selznick. Over performing the characters from the book perfectly and being increasingly out of control as the days of his self imposed incarceration increase.

Victor Fleming played by Victor Guse is the perfect foil for the two characters, playing the almost dormant part of the trio as he frequently spends his time in the confines of the couch. His moments of glory come the re-enactments of the book, whether he is the love interest or giving birth on the couch.

The Playhouse is always at its best when it is presented with a single set play such as this (and indeed much my personal favourite in any case) and this allows not only a gorgeous set to be created once again by Mark Mortimer, but director Corinna Leeder to concentrate on the simple things rather than set movement. It is all presented with clarity to the audience with the three locations of main desk, writing table and couch the hotbeds of action, this all allows the production to flow easily. I did particularly like the scene where presenting towards the audience, some nice lighting effects were used for illustration, a neat touch indeed.

This being an opening night, there were a couple of technical issues and some minor script faus pas, however for a first night it was one of the smoothest that I have seen recently and you can certainly see that a lot of work has gone into making this as clean as it is.

So an interesting play well performed. It can at times feel quite a wordy exercise and perhaps comes best suited to someone who is a little more family with the book or movie itself. However either way it is an entertaining little farce which will leave you with a smile on your face as the curtain comes down.


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 20th September, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Moonlight And Magnolias runs at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton until Saturday 24th September, 2016.

For full details of the Playhouse Theatre visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/ and can be found on Twitter @PlayhouseNTH

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