Thu 20th – Sat 22nd February 2014


Joseph Cooper

at 09:58 on 21st Feb 2014



I couldn't picture 'The Great Gatsby' working as a stage play – and I was right, it doesn't, but something very elegant and beautiful takes its place. The cast and crew certainly had their work cut out; the story captures an idea, a state of mind, with a plot so small you can easily crush it. Most problematically of all, the book has a narrator with no character, and a lead with a suppressed one. Indeed, only the figure of Daisy has a truly lively personality.

The result was something very peculiar – scenes ended and flowed on without a real feeling of resolution, continual slight disappointments, much like Gatsby's dream. The actors had a real buzz between them on stage, but the scenes themselves ended with a modest, slightly irrelevant change in lighting and no burst of something extra, no farewell. The cutting off of Nick's personal stories was also very seamlessly done, and aided the plot's narrow focus and profound, yet irrelevant, feel; the play was charming, beautiful and, in its own strange way, superb.

Sean Hynn is a fantastic actor, right down to his feet, and seemed to effortlessly wear Gatsby's skin; he captured the insidious threatening nature of his personality, alongside the loveable confusion and the joint largeness and hollowness of his character and dream. Dan Stanyon was highly commendable in his role as Nick, although was a little too nervous and dissatisfied on stage, due to the artificial appearance of his facial expressions. In the monologues, however, he came into his own, especially when accompanied by the piano or the steady fading of the lights upon his closing words of hope (a beautiful touch); and also for being in character before the show even began. I forgive him his faults, for, as I said before, Nick has no real character in the book, and so to put him on stage was always going to be difficult. Eleanor Colville was also a star of the show, and her Daisy was convincing, touching and infuriating all at once, with a wonderful voice and accent.

The use of props was rather absurd – the dogs in particular – which I will assume was the desired effect, and added to the light, airy tone of the piece. Oh yes – its lightness – the production had an odd quality of being somewhat breezy, but with moments of sharpness, and throughout requiring an attentiveness from the audience member. It's a play I think you'd have to be 'in the mood' for – if in doubt, listen to some jazz to warm you up beforehand.

The staging I enjoyed appreciating, the apartment scenes in particular possessing a languishing, ill-at-ease feel in their set-up and execution. For a large stage, the feeling is surprisingly intimate; the illustrious costumes set it in Jazz Age America, but seem to take us with them too. There were, however, moments which unduly tested the cast's physical acting, with lengthy periods of silent presence on stage, while the focus is elsewhere. When the stage is busy, though, and active, the power-plays and rapport between the characters bloomed in the performance, Ben Brodie's Tom coming into his own as a counterpoint to Hynn's splintering coolness; the dynamic between Nick and Gatsby was also delightful to watch, framing both characters at once in a mixture of pity, impressiveness and contempt.

The play will certainly please fans of the book, although having your own personal image of those characters warped can be painful at times. Much of the lines are drawn rather wonderfully from the book, a college of impressions which make a new, untidy whole. It captures the essence of Gatsby in a surprisingly full and moving way; the gentle comedy interposed with domestic violence and despair. The play seems wonderfully false, just like Gatsby, and leaves a pensive feel.


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