This production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's timeless and iconic novel, The Great Gatsby, by Ruby in the Dust theatre company is, amazingly, the third to grace the London stage this year, but the first musical adaption (although in truth, this is more a 'play with music').
Joe Evans's smoky, jazzy score, Belle Mundi's superb costume designs and a summer's evening in London to rival some of Long Island's finest combine to present an excellent depiction of America's 'Roaring Twenties'. Strong performances, and clever direction by Linnie Reedman, help to convey the hope and glamour of the era, shrouding the insecurities, secrets and sadness below the glitzy surfaces of these characters.
As the performance progresses, though, the difficulty of condensing a novel so celebrated and so complicated into a two hour 'musical' becomes increasingly apparent. Whilst there are some truly unforgettable tunes, at times the vocals come in under par, with a lack of singing confidence, and some of the ensemble numbers seem like they need a little more polish.
Matilda Sturridge's Daisy is sultry and beautiful, making an ideal partner for Sean Browne's handsome and mysterious Gatsby, yet she is a little young for the role and fails to convey the depth and the world-weariness her character should embody. The sexual chemistry between Steven Clarke's buff and obnoxious Tom and Naomi Bullock's feisty Myrtle is altogether more believable. It is always a joy to see actors double up as musicians and, hot and gutsy, Bullock does a marvelous job on clarinet and delivers the show's catchiest number beautifully. Raphael Verrion's Nick Carraway is also worthy of a mention, king of the ménage-à-trios and convincing sufferer of awkward moments throughout.
An undoubtedly enjoyable evening, just a little too light in places, with too much of the original's subtlety and nuance lost in translation.
- by Helen Macdonald, photo by Patrick Dodds