Space Theatre, Thu 3 Sep
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an American classic – an epic even – and this production is a thoroughly entertaining depiction of what is essentially a fascinating tale about east coast American society in the early 1920s. Jay Gatsby may be the headline act but it is just as much the story of his friend Nick Carraway, played superbly here in a performance of sustained eloquence by Will Cox. Not once does he falter alternating between character and narrator to keep us intimately informed of what is going on behind the main narrative.
It’s not hard to see why Gatsby has become a classic. There are many levels to contemplate here – the naïve innocence and fallibility of people no matter how wealthy and influential they may be, the state of American society at the time, the lure of the unattainable American dream, and the nature of existence in general are but a few.
A particular challenge of bringing this to the live stage is how to convey the ostentatious opulence of the parties that Gatsby threw where people came in their hundreds to drink and dance the nights away in an amoral celebration of post-war life. And generally the large cast pull it off with many taking multiple roles, and the help of a great selection of recorded and live music (some fine vocal cameos from Ben Francis) that typified the Jazz Age.
I realise it’s not fair to compare, but it’s hard for anyone who has seen the recent Hollywood production not to think of the charismatic beauty of Leonardo DiCaprio when they contemplate the character of Jay Gatsby. But Lindsay Prodea does a great job of portraying the complex character – warm, welcoming, and ultimately full of doubt. The success of this show in no small measure hangs on the relationship between Gatsby and Carraway, and it is beautifully developed here. In the end it’s clear they had simply become really good friends, and their affection for each other is quite believable.
I really enjoyed this. Cox and Prodea were the stand-out performers, as indeed they must be. The female cast, led by Madeleine Herd as Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s great love, and Kate Bonney as Myrtle Wilson, all looked fantastic in the fashions of the day, and displayed a vivacious confidence typical of the time.
Artistic Director Rob Croser deserves enormous credit for another successful adaptation of a classic literary work for the stage. Dense with layers of meaning that may be more easily savoured reading alone in novel form, this stage adaptation avoids being verbose or tedious, and the narrative skips along at an entertaining pace. It’s a remarkable feat of writing.
A great night out that leaves you with plenty to think about.
The Great Gatsby continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times until Sat 12 Sep.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.