Recently, I was invited to review a production of The Great Gatsby at my local theatre. Having never read the book nor seen the film, it seemed best to hand over the tickets to James and his Mum, who had least had something to compare the play to. Here’s what they thought:
“I read The Great Gatsby as a teenager, and I was captivated. I wanted to be Jay Gatsby, the mysterious loner who no-one knew anything about, the man about whom rumours and speculation grew and spread wildly as no-one knew his truth. I saw the Robert Redford film version sometimes in the 1980s when it was on TV but deliberately steered away from the Leo DiCaprio version as I doubted a shiny, new Hollyweird version could really do it justice. When I saw the posters advertising a live production by Blackeye Theatre, I was intrigued. How would it, or could it be adapted for the stage?
A minimalist monochromatic set that was on full display as we took our seats added to the mystery. How could this be a mansion, a beach, a road, a gas station forecourt or a small cottage all at once. The answer was astounding. The talented cast acted parts of the novel as narrated by Nick Carraway (played by Adam Jowett), the set managing to fill all the requirements of the story by being lit in evocative and imaginative ways. This was put to best use when the strobing lines that represented the road shattered into shards of glass that spread across the entire stage. There was a hint of green lighting when Tom Buchanan became jealous, red light when he became angry. It was effective throughout.
The musical interludes left me a little cold as, aside from The Wizard of Oz, I am not a huge fan of musicals, but as the songs were sung and instruments played by the talented cast, I couldn’t help appreciating the skill and versatility of the entire ensemble.
Not wishing to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read or seen the story, the final scene was disappointing. The appearance of Gatsby’s father added nothing to the plot, removed some of the mystery of the man, and left me wishing the play had finished one scene earlier. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and would recommend you see it if you have the chance.”
“A talented, versatile troupe of seven young actors took the audience through Stephen Sharkey’s intriguing adaptation of Fitzgerald’s story which managed to stay true to the original. The minimalist black and white set adapted to the various scenes becoming a glitzy party venue, a car or a garden by simply moving chairs. The addition of some appropriate music, played and sung by the cast, emphasized the twists and turns of the story. The costumes, especially those of Jordan Baker (played by Celeste De Veazey), were a credit to the costume designer (Jenny Little). Max Roll’s portrayal of Jay Gatsby came across as a slightly naïve country boy of dubious past buying into the glamour and consumerism of the wealthy residents of West Egg, giving a different perspective which brought a new dimension to the character. All in all, a very enjoyable evening watching this young ensemble enthusiastically present an interesting adaptation.”