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


Sofia Lewis Sofia Lewis
For many years Sofia wrote here under her male name Owen J. Lewis. She is now mostly writing under her own name of Sofia Lewis. Sofia, who worked on independent radio for over ten years, lives in Shrewsbury and writes plays. She has over 15 titles published and her plays are performed all over the world. She is especially popular in America. Her poetry is also often noted and she writes reams of it most weeks. Since graduating in theatre in 1997 Sofia has been an Actor, Filmmaker, and a Secondary School Teacher. Reviewing theatre is something she thoroughly enjoys and she loves to see great theatre. As a musician Sofia is known throughout the UK she is a folk singer, and is often seen or heard around her native county singing and having fun. Sofia has contributed to loveshrewsbury.com for over a decade and enjoys sharing her views on theatre. Sofia has one daughter and grew up in Church Stretton.

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