Review: Loft does justice to the story of a legend’s birth

Tim Willis as David O Selznick
Tim Willis as David O Selznick

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Moonlight and Magnolias at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

Hollywood. The place where great stories are told, legends born, and where everything is larger than life.

But in the office of legendary producer David O. Selznick (Tim Willis) there’s a problem. His latest blockbuster creation, the film of Margaret Mitchell’s fabulous story, Gone with the Wind, refuses to be born. The scripts are lousy, the actors petulant and difficult. His creditors will eat him alive. So he brings in two equally great men, scriptwriter Ben Hecht (Oli Jones) and director Victor Fleming (Chris Gilbey Smith) and he locks them away with him for five days. It’s a make or break attempt to get the thing written. Will they do it?

We know they will. This (almost) true story tells of the birth of a legend. And I’m not just talking about Gone With the Wind. The Loft was due to present Ladies in Lavender at this point in their season, but unexpected events called for a last minute change of plan. I don’t know what Ladies would have turned out to be like, but this is a triumph. Director and lead actor Tim Willis rises to the pressure. Selznick’s mercurial character doesn’t so much shine as dazzle. He’s everywhere; cajoling, pleading, threatening, charming. Jones and Gilbey-Smith match him step for step.

I can’t leave out the brilliant supporting role of Miss Poppenghul (Sam Harris), Selznick’s secretary. She is the comic foil to the boys’ extravagant egos. Together they make one heck of a show.

Did I give a damn? You bet I did.

* Moonlight and Magnolias runs until Saturday. Call 0844 493 4938 for tickets.