The Stage

“This is a remarkable performance
by a remarkable actress…”

Wednesday 5th September, 2001

A captivating actress of Dresden beauty, Vivien Leigh attained “theatre royal” status as Lady Olivier in a classical career just beyond the reach of her natural abilities, and became a troubled Blanche du Bois figure, both on stage and in real life.
But it was her fairytale casting as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind that made her n international icon. And the most compelling moment in this swift chronicle of her life is when producer David O Selznick first sets eyes on his future star, lit by the still smouldering fires of Atlanta on the Culver City back lot in 1938.

After that, despite Oscars and applause, warm friendships and wild affairs, her life was a downhill struggle against ill-health, childlessness, divorce and mental breakdown.

American actress Marcy Lafferty first tackled the subject in three short films, from which she has now developed this one-woman show, impersonating the by then frail star meeting the Press at a London theatre in 1960 (although Leigh spent that year in New York and on tour).

Hair design by Elliot King, a widow’s peak framing the high forehead and plucked brows above arresting eyes, help her create the Leigh look. But given Lafferty’s bone structure, transatlantic undertones and a tendency to rush headlong, no one could ever mistake the performer for the real thing.

And there are some oddities in an otherwise carefully researched script, including Betty Bacall joining Bogey at a George Cukor brunch in 1938 and Guy Fawkes Night featured as an Indian festival.

The show makes a disconcerting 90 minutes for anyone who saw Leigh perform in the flesh, and a sudden, unsignalled shriek of terror during a session of electro convulsive therapy takes us back to the dark ages of fifties medicine.

But despite one’s reservations, this is a remarkable performance by a remarkable actress, offering a vivid portrait of a quick silver personality in both triumph and despair.