Her topic was a potentially risky one: the breakdown of F. Scott Fitzgerald's marriage to Zelda. The Fitzgeralds' lives are a dream for any writer, full of romance, bliss and tragedy, yet of all the attempts to stage or film their lives have failed. Tennessee Williams had a go with his play Clothes for A Summer Hotel but it was a flop. The couple have even been explored in a musical: Beautiful and Damned (not to be confused with Fitzgerald's novel of the same title).
Perhaps the reason why these attempts fail is that Scott Fitzgerald's writings all allude to the breakdown of his marriage, and Zelda's mental breakdown. His prose is so lush and beautiful that it's hard for another writer to do it justice. Hobbs solves the problem by blending in Scott and Zelda's writing (letters and novels) with her own dialogue and therefore manages to capture something of their elusive charm.
The novel that most clearly influences the play is Tender is The Night, with Zelda (played by Kat Hardman) overshadowing her husband. Hardman is suitably dazzling and charming; her version of Zelda seems to walk on a tightrope between charm and insanity. The fact that her nuerosis seems so embedded in her personality that she is beyond saving makes for a wonderfully tragic play and makes the audience sympathise even when Zelda is apathetic towards her daughter (rather like Daisy in The Great Gatsby).
Craig Hamilton as Scott Fitzgerald makes a good foil. Fitzgerald takes a bit of a backseat in this production but Hamilton is still a strong presence: sensitive, loving but frustrated at Zelda's illness and his inability to transcend it. The play is a two-hander, with the lovers battling over how to tell their story. Fabrication of truth is a theme that runs throughout Fitzgerald's novels and this play is infused with it: both the fascination it provokes but also the bitter truth that the two are desparately trying to cover.
It's worth mentioning the set as well. Zelda's costume changes are done on stage, giving the impression of a flighty woman who can change her identity in a flash. Whereas Scott wears the same clothes throughout, Zelda remains consistantly elusive- a clever metaphor for their relationship and a chance to see some nifty twenties-style dresses. Letters often double as props- ice creams and strawberries for example- and the set is littered with them. On close inspection as I was leaving, the writing on them is genuinely a letter rather than the script.
One final mention is the choreography. Both Hardman and Hamilton are nifty here with classic twenties style; the good times never looked so good.
Unfortunately this effervescent play was only on for one night: as ephemeral as the Fitzgeralds' happiness.