Friday, September 22

The Great Gatsby – The Actors Church

Tethered Wits have produced a superb reduced adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel as a touring production. I caught it at the Actors Church in Covent Garden. Being a touring production, it used only five actors and a minimal set consisting of little more than a small (not very smart) chaise longue and a few boxes, plus some floral decoration. From some of the photographs in the programme it seems that at some other locations they were able to use a rather more elaborate set. At the Actors Church it was performed on the semicircular steps of the entrance to the church itself. This was a splendid location because the doors of the church were left open, so it was possible see right through into the nave but made for an extremely constrained playing area. Nevertheless, the cast and the director made excellent use of the space.

With only five cast members, considerable doubling was required, which was accomplished very professionally with rapid costume changes. The cast worked very well together as a team. Oliver Stockley made an excellent Nick Caraway, acting as the narrator of the story. His boyish face and wonderful expressions made him the ideal naive observer of the rich, decadent class of 1920’s America. Rory Dulku was a suave and enigmatic Gatsby, as well the mechanic George Wilson. Deakin van Leeuwen was the severe Tom Buchanan, whose violent controlling personality was well demonstrated. Van Leeuwen also played various other parts including an extremely funny cameo as a lawnmower! Olivia Willis and Amelia Stanimeros were beautifully dressed in the style of the decadent 20’s and came across as the privileged but trapped female partners. They could also dance, and I particularly liked their tap dancing which at one stage well evoked the sound of moving train. All the cast members were accomplished musicians and played a range of instruments during the play.

To condense the novel into a 90-minute stage production meant that it was very fast moving, with a lot of short scenes which the cast successfully executed without losing the essence of the story, nor the power of the eventual tragic outcome.

As a touring production, I thought this was excellent: well adapted, well-acted and well directed with suitable musical accompaniment. No theatre lighting was used, so as the sky darkened during the evening the play was lit only by the light from the Actors Church lighting, which provided a very evocative atmosphere for the final scenes.

Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd

Reviewed: 17th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.