THE GREAT GATSBY
by Peter Joucla based on the novel by F Scott Fitzgerald.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 3 May 2014.
Tue-Say 8pm Mat 26 April, 1 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 26 April 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 30 April.
Pre-show Discussion 1 May 2pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKTS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 April.
A big little world bursts with excitement and intensity onto the Queen’s stage.
At 7.30 on Monday evening Simon Jessop was a member of cut to the chase, the Queens’ ensemble of actor-musicians, about to have his first attempt at directing revealed. By a quarter to ten he was an accomplished director with a rare and firm mastery of style and ensemble.
There were a few tense moments as the rehearsal-room opening of Peter Joucla’s stage version of F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of spendthrift, amoral America seemed set to become an economy version of the word-for-word complete text Gatz which New York theatre company Elevator Repair Service brought to London in 2012.
But a stage management figure quietly standing and removing a tray of mugs introduces the idea of individual action, soon taken up by company members standing to walk through their parts.
Then costume starts emerging. Nothing seems wilful or disruptive. It’s the rehearsal process. As actors begin to enter into their characters, Jessop adopts a continuous fluidity of style. The veteran theatregoer might tick-off influences; what matters is that each moment is welded smoothly into coherent story-telling.
And, on a stage which retains the sense of a rehearsal-room throughout, projections, including images comically contrasting Gatsby’s mansion with narrator Nick Carraway’s humbler rented place (swiftly distinguishing what turns out insubstantial social glory from reality) and film (more comedy with a rear-view society dance, presumably a Black Bottom group wiggle), help establish necessary locations. Especially Wilson’s garage, a bit-part scene initially that becomes increasingly crucial.
Electronics vary, rather than amplify, voice quality, distinguishing thought from speech, while realistic moments such as Tom Buchanan’s anger contrast stylised staging of scenes where intensity of feeling and nervousness in expression is suggested through distance and words spoken to empty air rather than to the lover – Gatsby’s reuniting with Daisy Buchanan makes a breath-holding intensity before the interval, contrasted in the second act by a jazz-age riot of colour and dance at a wild party.
Possibly, it’s unQueenly; this theatre normally guides audiences through its shows. Jessop demands they sit up and make their own connections. The final enthusiastic response shows they have done just that.
Daisy Buchanan: Ellie Rose Boswell.
Myrtle Wilson: Georgina Field.
Nick Carraway: Callum Hughes.
Jay Gatsby: Sam Kordbachheh.
Tom Buchanan: Sean Needham.
Meyer Wolfsheim: Stuart Organ.
George Wilson: Sam Pay.
Jordan Baker: Alison Thea-Skot.
Director: Simon Jessop.
Designer: Rodney Ford.
Lighting: Christopher Howcroft.
Composer/Musical Director: Steven Marwick.
Choreographer: Donna Berlin.
Film: Ben Jessop.