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Theatre Review: The Great Gatsby: A UK Touring Production


Photo Credit: Alex Harvey-Brown and Mark Holliday

F.Scott Fitzgerald depicted the infamous era of Jazz in the USA through the eyes of Nick Carraway, and the Great Gatsby is now a story familiar to almost every household in this country. In 2013, Baz Luhrmann’s choice of cast seduced many as they gawped at the unfolding events on the big screen, amid the glitz and glamour we can now only dream of existing. In its lifetime it has undergone countless adaptations from ballets to opera, films to radio and of course in theatre. Just in this last year, there have been at least two major productions of The Great Gatsby within the UK. The first has just concluded a successful run at the Arts Theatre, while the second is currently mid-tour across the UK with Blackeyed Theatre.

Set in the titillating 1920’s, Gatsby is a man who has almost the entire world’s dreams at his fingertips, and yet underneath is a struggling soul with a huge void he is desperate to fill. Suppressing his true needs results in it gnawing away at him until the inevitable spiral of self-destruction begins. And once it has begun, it does not let up. But ever the glitzy showman, Gatsby attempts to hide it, while his fate becomes sealed.

The Great Gatsby could be argued to be a historical insight into the lives of the 1920’s socialites, and although a fictional tale it has a resounding common place with the reality of that lifestyle. It is also relatable to the pain families across the world had to deal with, after living a life of easy buying and luxury goods when the 2008 global economic crash occurred. Such a relatable tale resonated with voices and lives across the UK and the world, however it somehow seems easier to watch it in a tantalizing world we almost wish we could live in. Perhaps, a modern day Fitzgerald will write about the 2008 crisis in a similar fashion. Either way, the greatest connection I have ever felt to this story, is realising the dangers of mirages such as “the american dream.” So many people spent years living beyond their means, only to find themselves buried in debt, laid off, homes taken away from them. This is exactly what Fitzgerald was warning us about, and not least warning us but predicting historical events using fictional characters to demonstrate his purpose and point. The Great Gatsby written in 1925, was 4 years before his predictions played out when in 1929 the Great Depression consumed the world.

The reason for The Great Gatsby’s popularity is the glitz, glamour, love, passion, heartbreak that consumes us all when we sit in the audience, We not only want that suspension of disbelief, we beg for it and use it as a way to escape from our hectic and mundane lives. And I absolutely agree with it! Theatre, film, television, literature; it is all a form of entertainment, and while there may be deeper meanings amongst the plots, sometimes it is nice to just take things at face value. The Great Gatsby gives you that opportunity to read into it as much as you choose to.

Currently touring around the UK with Blackeyed Theatre, including Derby, Lincoln, Loughborough, Windsor and many more! It is an exciting new production, adapted by the wonderful Stephen Sharkey and a very talented cast.

Written by Nikica Markot

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