The story is about an artistic gold rush; Hollywood's first ever talking motion picture is a massive hit and there is a scramble to produce more. The problem is that Hollywood's actors are silent movie stars not used to speaking on camera. Down on their luck variety performers Jerry (Kevin Bishop), May (Claudie Blakley) and nice but dim George (John Marquez) spy a business opportunity and jump on a cross-country train to California to set up a speech school.
On the way they meet celebrity gossip columnist Helen Hobart (Lucy Cohu) whom they wheedle into helping them with an introduction to movie mogul Herman Glogaur (Harry Enfield).
Cue what is part farce, part satire on theatre and Hollywood types who look down on each other and where guile rather than talent, luck rather than intelligence gets you ahead. It is a shallow, glamourous and opulent world full of champagne and sequins (mainly on Lucy Cohu's amazing dresses) where there are so many egos and administrative layers that it swallows people (and money) up.
John Marquez excels as the deeply dim George who unwittingly proves pivotal in the trios success and Amanda Lawrence's bustling studio receptionist steels every scene she is in. Lizzie Connolly plays a wonderfully enthusiastic but talentless actress and Otto Farrant does a great stint as an uptight German director. It is all beautifully tied together by Claudie Blakley who brings what is the only sensible character to the forefront of the drama and has you backing her all the way.
The revolving stage adds its own level of Hollywood magic as sets and props disappear and are replaced in one slow revolve.
Once In A Lifetime feels a little slow to get going but once it does it is good, warm, fun theatre with plenty of laughs, colourful characters and colourful, sparkling costumes. Perfect for a cold, dark winter night. It is around two hours and 20 minutes long and I'm giving it four stars. See it at the Young Vic until Jan 14.