Boyz theatre critic Stephen Vowles steps back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood and rediscovers the iconic Scarlett O’Hara.
One of the most intriguing and memorable stories about the golden days of Hollywood was David O Selznick’s search for the actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in the film version of Margaret Mitchell’s book Gone with the Wind; when Vivien Leigh was cast it caused a sensation because she was English and had to adopt the Southern belle accent, which was risky at the time. I mention this as Sophia Eleni, who plays Vivien Leigh in Simone Leonardi’s To Be Or Not Be Scarlett O’Hara, handles the switch in accent between the crispness of Leigh and the Southern drawl of O’Hara with absorbing effect.
Federico Moro as Laurence Olivier, Leigh’s lover at the time, is also superbly cast; his chiselled good looks perfectly emphasise his arrogance and his abruptness towards Leigh, as he knows the huge success Leigh would subsequently get from playing the role of a lifetime is inevitable.
The tension between the two based upon career jealousies is played out beautifully. Elena as Leigh plays the role with a masterful understanding of the power of ambition. This is also a very sexy play. Leonardo also spices up the story by suggesting a salacious connection between Clark Gable, who has been cast to play Rhett Butler, and George Cukor, the famous director who was for a time in the frame to direct the movie. He also touches on Olivier’s homosexuality, his marriage to Jill Esmond, who produced a son for him, and the fact that Leigh was considering having an abortion so she would be ready to play O’Hara.
This is a well researched play where the twists and turns of the story and character manipulation is based upon the fact that on both professional and personal levels all the characters need to have their respective egos constantly massaged.
This is Hollywood Babylon, gossip and glamour superbly brought to life by the precise direction of Raffaele Cericola. Superb!