Having been crowned ‘Regional Theatre of the Year’ in 2019 and wowing audiences with world-class productions like the award-winning The Madness of George III and home-grown hits like WonderlandNottingham Playhouse have set the standard pretty high in the past couple of years. We’re delighted that their latest production Moonlight and Magnolias fall nothing short of the brilliance we’ve come to expect – a laugh-out-loud riot which doesn’t shy away from a sensitive and intelligent discourse on representation within popular culture. 

The play by Ron Hutchinson first premiered in London in 2007 and presents an evocative examination of the Hollywood studio system through the lenses of the (almost true) making-of-tale of Gone with the Wind - one of the most iconic, yet undeniably controversial, movies from the golden age of cinema.

Joe Alessi (who soap fans might recognize from recent roles in EastEnders and Coronation Street) excels as hot-shot producer David O. Selznick, poised on the brink of both brilliance and ruin, having halted production on one of the most anticipated, not to mention expensive, movies of the era. You could virtually see a vein popping in his forehead with frustration in the opening scenes, as he discovers Ben Hecht (Dan Fredenburgh) – the legendary screen-doctor roped in to save the day – is one of the few Americans left who’s not read the book.

Moonlight and Magnolias at Nottingham Playhouse | Visit Nottinghamshire

Oscar Pearce in the role of film director Victor Fleming brings an undeniably hilarious physicality to his performance and is responsible for some of the most memorable comedic moments as he and Selznick act out the book for an increasingly incredulous Hecht. The renowned screen writer with a suspicion of Hollywood which bordered on disdain - is undoubtedly the most complex of the characters, something actor Dan Fredenburgh delivers brilliantly.

For a play with just four characters (the forth being Miss Poppenghul, Selznicks’s long-suffering assistant played by Hayley Doherty), and set solely within Selznick’s office as the trio barricade themselves for five frenzied days to save the script, the fast-paced dialogue peppered with jokes keeps the momentum going throughout. Meanwhile, clever lighting transforms what could be a static set to something more dynamic.

Moonlight and Magnolias

Despite moments of slapstick silliness, the play isn’t afraid to address serious matters, from the precarious existence of a life spent making movies, through to the antisemitism within Hollywood and outsider status of ethnic minorities despite their individual achievements, and most notably, the representation of the south’s troubled past and slavery within the novel by Margaret Mitchell.

Elements of critical analysis play out in the arguments between the reluctant screen-writer Hecht and Selznick, a realist in the business of making movies with a twinkle in his eye that hints at an appreciation of their magic. In doing so it questions the line between representation and glorification and the responsibility of the creators of popular culture.

In the words of John Cleese, things need not be somber to be serious, and the comedy comes thick and fast throughout, especially as the characters become ever more unhinged, exhausted and deranged. A real crowd-pleaser which is sure to entertain, regardless of whether you’ve read the book or seen the film and a particular treat for anyone with an affection for the glory days of old Hollywood. 

Moonlight and Magnolias is at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 7 March 2020.


This blog was written by Claire Jones, Marketing Assistant at Visit Nottinghamshire. 


Moonlight and Magnolias
Moonlight and Magnolias

Discover the (almost) true story of the making of Gone With the Wind in Moonlight and Magnolias at Nottingham Playhouse



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