Produced by Nottingham New Theatre – which is apparently the only theatre company in the entire British Isles to be run completely by students – this vibrant adaptation brings F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic work of fiction The Great Gatsby to vivid life. The young cast employ lighting, music and props to good effect to make use of the small stage space and guide us on this much-revered tale of immorality, decadence and love lost among the upper classes of 1920s New York.
Holding our hand on this journey is narrator Nick Carraway, played with confidence and conviction by Nick Gill. Just as in the novel, Nick’s involvement in the New York set and his own personal interpretations of the events sometimes relegate the events themselves to secondary focus. It might ostensibly be a love story between Gatsby and Daisy, but the refraction of the action through Nick’s perception gives it its edge, and Gill excels in the limelight.
Elsewhere, the acting is a little wooden and forced at times, but there are enough real glimpses of talent from all of the cast (though especially from Gill and Harry Bradley, playing Daisy’s husband Tom) to put down the occasional slips to early night nerves. The accents, on the other hand, are unanimously unconvincing and that’s probably something unlikely to improve with repeat performances – but also something that doesn’t overly detract from the enjoyment of the piece.
As for the use of stage and set, the backlit screen is a very effective tool for using silhouettes to portray off-stage events, and the highly symbolic green light is sparingly used but powerful. The soundtrack is spot on, although at times the volume does make it difficult to hear the characters’ speech – a simple lowering of volume during conversations and monologues would solve this superficial problem. The dancing, on the other hand, is an absolute joy to behold and really adds some energy and authenticity to the production.
All in all, this is an excellent adaptation from a fledgling theatre company, but ultimately the lack of professional input in the outfit’s makeup does show through the cracks at times. With more confidence, some accent lessons and a few minor technical tweaks, The Great Gatsby would be a top-class Fringe show. As things stand, it’s still well worth the price of entry. Note – the show only takes place on even dates (not 14th).