Frivolity fans the air as a live band dances an eager audience back to the roaring 1920s for an evening of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It’s hard not to immediately be swept up in the decadence as the cast mingle with the audience until suddenly you aren’t sure if you’re within the production or simply observing it – what part do you play in the party that never stops?
Cleverly framed, there is audience participation from the start. All rise as a coroner begins to question the events leading up to the death of a man, a man surrounded by mystery and rumour. Witness testimonies contradict. A cacophony of characters cause calamity.
Just as it feels like a judgement has been made, in bursts protagonist Nick Carraway (Thomas Cotran). Clearly upset, he takes command of the small centre stage – which is nothing more than that – and appeals to someone, anyone, to take an open view.
Nick’s emotive narrative weaves back through key events leading to the fateful incident. We join him in meeting Jay Gatsby (Daniel Burke) learn of the light Gatsby carries for Daisy (Molly-Grace Cutler) and witness what happens when hope falters.
Through Nick’s narrative, we’re drawn in by Daisy’s adulterous husband Tom (Laurie Jamieson) mesmerised by his mistress Myrtle (Alyce Liburd) and sympathetic to her husband George Wilson (Matthew Ganley). An ensemble of characters complements these main ones, and it is within these that the acting really shines – it is their energy and ability to transform from one persona to another that makes the whole thing believable.
Between them the cast – and their evident chemistry – create a 1920s microcosm of New York in modern day Chester. It is executed with extreme skill.
Directed by Conrad Nelson and written by Deborah McAndrew, this production draws out all the layers and themes within the book that can sometimes be absent in film and theatre interpretations. There is space to breathe between the narrative. Who is Nick Carraway appealing to when he calls out for mercy in judgement? Does Daisy truly return Jay’s affections or is it the smell of money that attracts her? Most of all, who is Gatsby? Perhaps he could be one of us, any of us.
Tickets for The Great Gatsby can be booked at https://www.grosvenorparkopenairtheatre.co.uk and it is showing until 27th August 2023.
Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle
Reviewed: 1st August 2023
North West End UK Rating: