A Truly Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Theatre Severn

28th-30th January 2016

“One of the most innovative companies working in contemporary English theatre,” Claims “The Stage,” as they discuss the wonderfully creative company Blackeyed Theatre. Theatre goers in Shrewsbury tonight seemed massively to concur with that view as they lapped up this beautifully crafted show.

F.Scott-Fitzgerald’s, "The Great Gatsby," ever the source for A level  drama and A level English papers throughout schools for decades, has been given back to theatres to see what can be made of it. Blackeyed Theatre Company has picked up the figurative ball and they have run beautifully with it.

A masterpiece of timing this production is a must-see for fans of the ensemble piece.

With clever weaving of live music, song and dialogue, some anecdotal, some forward driving;  this show explores the lavish, decadent and decidedly roaring side of life in 1920’s America.

With a touring show one has to be mindful of setting cost against profit, (Yes even in the world of Theatre money is tight too!) this deceptively simple piece was actually nothing of the sort but certainly kept cost down when it came to staging. However, relying on the use of space, height status, gesture and costume a magical, lavish and opulent world was created.

The singing and harmonies were absolutely spot on. The musicianship was far higher than one might expect from a small touring company as perfectly polished notes tipped in abundance from the tubes of the shiny brass or the beautiful strings of the well-tuned piano, the banjo and guitar. Never once did this music encroach. Instead added value, mood and atmosphere.

The set itself was a white Art-Deco generic space which doubled up as Gatsby Mansion, Nick Carroway's house and even a darkened road where a very clever lighting affect was used to great effect as the ever important motor journeys took place. Whilst the lighting plan is complicated it adds a wealth of mood to the piece and works exceptionally well.

The script stayed faithful to the original style as the audience watched a society that, although only just rising from the cull which was WW1, was already laying down the foundationsof its doom namely the Nineteen-Thirties, where America suffered financially in the Great Crash and morally in the Great Dust Bowl. However at the time, society in spectacular Nero form continued to fiddle as the empire burnt. Oh what fun to be so rich, so young and just so unaware.

Future doom notwithstanding one can be forgiven for feeling nostalgic for a richer yet simpler time; a time for dubious high morals, high etiquette and a “What The Butler Saw” approach to the indiscretions that seemed to impede every society-girl's dance card. As we remember that life can seem sometimes more  attractive from behind us than before us, we understand the passage of time has painted a rosy hue on the crazy, halcyon days of Uncle Sam.

Check this show out, if just for the music alone you wouldn’t be sorry; but for a ripping good tale, some wonderful characterisation, stunning acting and great singing then this show is the hot ticket for you. Go and buy one, sit back and lose yourself in a world that inspite of going horribly wrong, was just a little attractive too.

This is a Four Star review

Owen J.Lewis

Section:

Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

Read More from Owen Lewis