REVIEW: TO BE OR NOT TO BE SCARLET O’HARA (Etcetera Theatre) ★★★★
An intriguing three man play, an imaginary take on what might have happened when Vivien Leigh, at the time a little known British actress, was given the staring roll of Scarlet O’Hara in the blockbuster movie, Gone With The Wind.
This was a very big deal, the film was going to be the biggest and most expensive ever made. The best selling novel upon which it was based, was loved by millions and the search for an actress to play Scarlet had become front page news throughout the world. The choice of an English actress to play this quintessential Southern Bell did not meet with universal approval from the American public.
Leigh’s secret lover was the world renowned (and married) actor Laurence Olivier, a charming man with an enormous talent and an ego to match. A clash between the two talented artists was inevitable.
“To Be Or Not to be Scarlett O ‘Hara” dramatises the evening immediately following the 1938 Christmas dinner at George Cukor’s house during which, Cukor had taken Vivien aside from the rest of the guests and quietly announced to her that, out of thousands of applicants, she had been chosen for the iconic role.
Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier are in Vivien’s hotel room. They are trying to deal with the crisis in their relationship caused by Vivien, taking the life changing role of Scarlett O’Hara, and Larry’s bruised ego.
Sophia Eleni is excellent. Her appearance and her voice are one hundred percent Vivien Leigh. Sophia is a very fine twenty three year old actor who is confident and warm.
Federico Moro who plays Laurence Olivier, looks identical to the young, Olivier and is a fine actor. Unfortunately he has a strong Italian accent which makes a mockery of the real Olivier’s, beautiful English voice. Moro’s attempt at a British accent is a disappointment and is distracting.
The third member of the cast is Tino Orsini who plays George Cukor the film’s famous director, who insists that Leigh should have an abortion, in order to avoid potentially disastrous publicity. Orsini is vastly experienced in films, theatre and television. His acting is excellent.
The writer is the Roman playwright and actor Simone Lionardi. This is his first UK production. His writing is excellent and overall the concept of the play is supremely interesting.
In the event, Vivien’s Scarlet O’Hara was an enormous success and the film became iconic. Olivier recovered from his hissy fit and over the next thirty years went from strength to strength. He eventually married Vivien (later Lady Olivier) who died at the age of 53 of tuberculosis in London.
Reviewed by Graham Archer