Gone in a whirl­wind

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

GONE WITH THE WIND

New Lon­don Theatre, Lon­don WC2

THERE IS a play by Ron Hutchin­son called Moon­light and Mag­no­lias, re­cently staged at the Tri­cy­cle Theatre in Lon­don, about writ­ing the film ver­sion of Gone With the Wind. The com­edy’s big joke is that pro­ducer David O Selznick, di­rec­tor Vic­tor Flem­ing and screen­writer Ben Hecht ham­mer out the script to Mar­garet Mitchell’s epic novel at break­neck speed.

And that, pretty much, is the way di­rec­tor Trevor Nunn and Mar­garet Martin — the Amer­i­can com­poser, lyri­cist and book writer of this mu­si­cal ver­sion — deal with Mitchell’s plot. Scenes rush by in a swirl of pet­ti­coats and South­ern man­ners. Civil war comes and goes. At­lanta burns — all in a flash.

Jill Paice’s Scar­lett O’Hara gets mar­ried three times, even­tu­ally to Dar­ius Danesh’s re­formed play­boy and gun­run­ner Rhett, who, tired of her en­dur­ing dal­liance with Ash­ley, ul­ti­mately leaves with­out giv­ing a damn.

A big­ger prob­lem than cram­ming in the book’s huge plot is how to deal with the racism of its slave-own­ing he­roes and hero­ines. It is quickly es­tab­lished that the O’Haras are as good as slave-own­ers get. The “dark­ies” even get to pray with them. And Natasha Yvette Wil­liams’s buxom black Mammy at least lends some dig­nity to the en­slaved. But still, like Mitchell’s book, this is a sani­tised Ge­or­gia where South­ern trees bear no strange fruit.

Martin is this show’s un­likely story. A lec­turer in pub­lic health with an in­ter­est in mu­sic but not a song to her name, she ap­proached di­rec­tor Trevor Nunn af­ter ac­quir­ing the stage rights to Mitchell’s novel. But it is hard to imag­ine that Nunn was at­tracted by Mitchell’s lyri­cally and mu­si­cally unin­spir­ing score. Like the drama, the songs have no time to de­velop, even at the show’s near fours hours. So the dis­cov­ery here — for those, like me, who didn’t see him in Pop Idol or his turns in Chicago and Guys and Dolls — is the charis­matic Danesh, who makes a pretty pair with Paice’s more-shrill-than-dan­ger­ous Scar­lett. But frankly my dear, that is nowhere near enough. ( Tel: 0870 890 0141)

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