Young Reviewers: Gatsby comes to Harrogate Theatre, old sport

Stage adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
Stage adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

In 2012 Harrogate Theatre's education department in association with The Harrogate Advertiser launched the Young Reviewers Scheme, mentoring the finest writing talent from our local secondary schools in the art of reviewing.

The latest round of students to take part were given the task of reviewing a new adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby.

The winning review below was written by Ilana Pearce of The Grammar School, Leeds.

Review: The Great Gatsby, Harrogate Theatre

Set in an era defined by unprecedented prosperity and the materialistic pursuit of wealth, The Great Gatsby portrays the amoral values of aristocratic East Egg. Stephen Sharkey’s sophisticated adaptation presents audiences with a sensational time capsule of the American dream’s decline.

The careless optimism of the Roaring Twenties is reflected elegantly in lavish parties, featuring champagne in ‘bowls, not glasses’ at Gatsby’s opulent mansion. Gatsby himself is enigmatic and aloof; a mysteriously detached silhouette played expertly by Max Roll.

This versatile cast is multi-talented, each playing not only their parts but a variety of instruments to provide the smooth jazz accompaniment to the production.

The powerful set design features torn, paper-like fragments in striking white, perhaps resembling the flimsy and superficial nature of this status-oriented period. The humour of slow-motion drunks and tram passengers swaying back and forth entertains amidst the aura of desolation and corruption.

This version is animated in scenes such as Daisy’s tour of the over-elaborate Gatsby estate, and suitably tense during the heated argument at the Plaza hotel.

On the whole, however, it misses the glittering splendour of flashy celebrations in places due to musical pauses where a background bustle of chatter would enliven the party scenes.

Nevertheless, the majority of the effects and costumes are impressive and the set is cleverly manipulated.

The staring eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg change colour to portray the characters’ emotions of jealously and anger, and the shattering of a windscreen is explosively effective.

Overall, Blackeyed Theatre’s interpretation highlights the themes of thwarted love, greed and dissatisfaction imaginatively, leaving the audience with a haunting glow of the metaphorical green light on the dock.

by Ilana Pearce