Putting the great in Gatsby at Harrogate Theatre

A scene from The Great Gatsby.
A scene from The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby, Harrogate Theatre: Review by Claire MacFarlane

It's a lot to take on - the glitz and glamour of the 1920’s in the greatest piece of American literature of the 20th century, the elusive Mr Gatsby as written by the iconic F. Scott Fitzgerald.

To their credit, the Blackeyed Theatre Company achieved an ambitious success at Harrogate theatre with an impressive and intelligent adaptation of this famous book, The Great Gatsby.

The celebrated story follows the narrator Nick Carraway a young, innocent and aspiring bonds trader who moves to New York in search of his American dream.

However, Nick becomes overwhelmed by the utter uncaring and shrewd nature of the wealthy and is caught between an age old feud and a tragic love story.

Every actor was multifunctional on the stage playing at least three different roles each, and showing an enormous amount of skill by rotating the on stage instruments, bringing the 1920’s alive with the quintessential sound of the atonal forays of the free Jazz, which interluded the free flowing dialogue.

With a simple set, the clever use of projection (Stephen Harrison) and props as well as a little help from our imaginations, helped to create the scenes.

Victoria Speaings’ set was a series of white blocks which felt slightly dispassionate and I felt slightly disappointed that the production didn’t portray fully the opulence of the American elites.

On the other hand, the costumes (Jenny Little) of the actors showed the dynamic, reckless and carefree attitude of many who could have had an alter ego lifestyle of rich exuberance.

The flirtatious sort dresses and bob haircuts depicted clearly how many flaunted their disdain for socially acceptable behaviour.

The authenticity of the costumes surpassed my expectations and were a large contrast with the plain stage design showing the extravagance of many during the time.

Considered as Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, with an Academy Award and BAFTA winning film adaptation, the Great Gatsby is an incredibly sinuous story line requiring immense acting skill and broadness of mind to exude on stage, which the actors carried out most definitely. Adam Jamet , who played Nick Carrway, engaged us from the very beginning as an unprejudiced and likable narrator, quoting segments of the original book, of which being such a large Gatsby fan, I could mime along with him.

Max Rolls’ depiction of Gatsby had he accent down to a T, and the classic “Old Sport” which made Gatsby so incredibly iconic was said quite in passing and without emphasis leaving an unequivocal feeling of satisfaction at the authenticity of the genuine script by Stephen Sharkey.

However I felt Roll’s portrayal of Gatsby somewhat lacked the mystery and appeal implied by the book, making Gatsby seem not entirely fit of the curiosity he aroused.

The task to portray such a heavily loved book and film upon a stage must be commended, as well as the very unorthodox method of the actors playing the instruments rather than a band, being a bold and audacious move.

Overall, this production at Harrogate Theatre was a huge success in maintaining the highly adored and eulogized reputation, proving once again that Gatsby really is Great.