Review Round-up: Gatz runs the gamut
In the dreary office of a small business an employee begins reading aloud from a found copy of The Great Gatsby. Soon, the office is transported into the world of F Scott Fitzgerald.
“ … The stage is deliberately under-energised, as if to place Fitzgerald’s silvery, glistening prose in ironic relief. But the effect is the opposite. The enervating tedium of the office set-up is disastrously contagious, and the acting dull, with Manhattan street sounds mingling with jazz age party noise and screeching car tyres on a soundtrack operated in full view by one of the actors at the side of the stage. The skill of great theatrical adaptations of novels – David Edgar’s of Nicholas Nickleby, Shared Experience’s A Passage to India, or even Les Misérables – is to make you feel that nothing has been left out … apart from the controlling voice of the narrating author. And here, that’s the part you often wish had been omitted. While you see the point of not having Robert Redford and Mia Farrow on the stage, boy do you long for them by the end … There’s no clinching dramatic statement of how the enigmatic boss in the contemporary office relates to his alter ago, Gatsby, and the framing stage metaphor is simply abandoned in the rhapsodic adieus of the last pages. And what could have been a surprise masterstroke, the appearance of Jay’s father at the end, is merely a crushing let-down, hide-bound by textual fidelity and very poor acting."
“This eight-hour-plus immersion – in which 13 actors read aloud every blessed word of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby – is thoroughly aural, even musical. And yet, the production acts upon the eye, through a meticulously layered physical score buzzing around Scott Shepherd, our intensely listenable narrator. Shepherd reads beautifully; we watch him read; we listen; we imagine that we read along with him; and so Fitzgerald's images are burned into our brains by an indirect circuit of seeing and hearing on intermeshed levels. After eight hours of this, our narrative-absorbing faculties have been so recalibrated that we forget where ERS's frame ends and Fitzgerald's picture begins … Fletcher doesn't really resemble the dashing, handsome playboy Jay Gatsby as we may cast him in our minds. That's as it should be: Gatz is constantly opening up a space between Fitzgerald's writing and the real life we see before us, in all its silliness, randomness and banality. The book offers escape, a new self, vicarious thrills.”
★★★★ “An eight-hour stage version of The Great Gatsby doesn’t immediately sound like a winner. You could read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel twice in that time (which includes a long break and two short ones). But American theatre company Elevator Repair Service has created something remarkable, a lyrical marathon ... John Collins’ production is technically impressive. Designer Louisa Thompson has crafted a strikingly dismal office space, and Ben Williams provides brilliantly nuanced sound. There’s deft support as well, with Robert Cucuzza and Susie Sokol making the strongest impression ... The performance gets off to a very slow start, and there are passages that feel a little flat. This isn’t theatre for the faint of heart or weak of spine. But it is an epic achievement - and a tribute to the greatness of Fitzgerald’s novel.”
- Julianna Fazio