Masks, seductive dresses, sounds, light. ‘I heard he blackmailed the President’, someone whispers in my ear as I sit down. Actors who look straight out of a 1920s flapper burlesque show sneak through the audience, whisper, stare, conspire and place themselves conspicuously in dark corners. The high arches and stage-lit pillars in the old church that hosts Assembly Roxy are made for the atmosphere that is created even before the play starts! Then the light changes, and the lose movements of figures in the shadows transform into directed steps and dance actions, predominantly in black and white outfits, evoking the glamorous period in which The Great Gatsby is set.
The play is much more dance and musical than theatre. It suits the story perfectly. The cast swings across the stage and celebrates the high life, added by film installations, circus moves and apt stage lights. The young performers have wonderful, but also young voices which sometimes appear a bit too weak to cope with the large room. Nevertheless, the story is clearly told, and anyone who never read the book or watched the movie would get a very accurate idea of what all the dancing, flirting, drinking and fighting was about. Props are used cleverly to set the scenes and distinguish between innocent country and seedy city, between garden romance and reception room reality.
There is an air of coldness and coolness about the whole performance, and the actors stay strangely anonymous. The differences in voices are not strong enough to distinguish characters clearly. And costumes in general are enhancing the feeling of uniformity. Bizarrely though, what on the first glance appears to be a disadvantage turns out to be just perfectly suited for what this staging of The Great Gatsby seems to want to achieve. For some this approach might be too cold and clinical, but for the Daisys and Toms amongst the audience, it was just right.