Exploitation of The Great Gatsby zeitgeist continues as we move ever closer to the release of the Baz Luhrmann film in December. Now you have the chance to see the classic story set to music.
In marked contrast to the 8-hour unabridged production Gatz, this offering from Ruby in the Dust runs for only one hour and fifty five minutes. The story has been cut down accordingly (purists will have to leave their prejudices at the door), but the result is a welcome snappy pace and some imaginative re-setting of certain events.
The music is a mix of jazz age jauntiness and more reflective character tunes, which have been sensibly kept simple – thankfully there is no sign of Daisy and Gatsby breaking out the jazz hands or party guests launching into a massive show-stopper. The set is also modest (there are few other options in such an intimate space), but touches such as a backdrop frame with carved spectacles and large art deco letters lend a sense of style. The costumes are indulgently ‘twenties’ as would be expected, and the period dancing is performed with panache. Combined, these elements make for a fun and immersive theatre experience.
The supporting cast are wonderful – Barnaby Brookman shines in a variety of the smaller character roles, bringing some great comic timing, and Nick, Daisy and Jordan are well portrayed. However the character of Jay Gatsby himself is less well developed on stage – whilst he is supposed to be an enigma, it was difficult to get much of a sense of depth here, and there was little sense of the strong friendship with Nick that makes his ultimate demise so sad. Disappointingly, the end felt rather rushed, and by bringing Daisy back into the plot for a closing song some of the loneliness that ends the novel was lost.
Despite these small issues, the lasting impression was of a fun night, and a recommended experience – only one week left to catch it!