F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is a literary classic, one which transferred well to the cinema but which rarely appears on stage. Blackeyed Theatre have sought to put that right with an adaptation by Stephen Sharkey which incorporates song, dance and live music.
Victoria Spearing’s set eschews detail in favour of minimalist tiered white blocks, seemingly straight out of IKEA , and back projection images with the colour and glamour for the production coming from the lavish and stylish costume design by Jenny Little.
The story is a century old, the theme older still, of a love that cannot be, nestling in decadence and deceit. The cast have to work hard, acting, singing, dancing, and playing instruments, and apply themselves with energy and dexterity. “Gatsby’s theme/Party music” opens the show as an ensemble piece, setting the tone, leading to a series of enjoyable musical set pieces of period standards. It stops short of becoming a musical as the music and songs play to compliment the mood, rather than advance the narrative.
Adam Jowett excels as a charismatic Nick Carraway, narrating the story as it unfolds. Tristan Pate revelled in the unappealing character of Tom Buchanan. Celia Cruwys- Finnigan is the star of the show as Daisy, shimmying and sashaying around in the best dresses, and generally looking gorgeous, but it is Stacey Ghent’s Myrtle who has the most fun.
Sharkey’s script is a decent stab at translating the page to stage, with the poetry of the prose nicely to the fore, but challenging F Scott Fitzgerald’s vision of the story as a novel is a pretty impossible task. The strong student contingent in the audience will have much to reflect upon in assessing this rare staging of the novel. Sharkey’s affection story is self-evident, but this adaptation fails as a stand alone entity. The cast have too much to do beyond acting, and the singing individually, and collectively fails to convince too often.
This production is bold in its conceit, and innovative in its approach, a credit to Director Eliot Giuralarocca, and Musical Director and arranger, Ellie Verkerk and runs till Saturday 13th February then continues on national tour.
For further information on The Great Gatsby on tour visit http://www.blackeyedtheatre.co.uk
This review first appeared in Behind the Arras, abridged, where a comprehensive collection of reviews from the best of Midlands Theatre, from a range of reviewers, is available.