Last time I saw The Great Gatsby it was as a movie on one of the large VMAX screens at the Event cinema complex in Bondi Junction by way of Baz Luhrmann’s grand Academy Award winning film.
This time I was seeing F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story as a play, in a newish, Sydney premiere adaptation by American playwright Simon Levy, presented by a local north side community theatre troupe, the Epicentre Theatre Company.
As I was watching the action impressively unfold, I thought to myself that there was something special about this experience. One doesn’t need all the hype, the big bucks, the huge production values, and fancy Hollywood stars for a show to work. All one needs is a damn good story, and a performing troupe who put their all into doing the best show that they can. In some respects the achievements of a small, unassuming troupe can be more impressive.
THE GREAT GATSBY is a hell of a story. The ‘major chords’ that it plays never fail to resonate. It is a parable for the ages….telling the story of Jay Gatsby, a ridiculously wealthy and classy man who assumed that he could have anything that he possibly wanted and yet falls short of keeping Daisy, the woman of his dreams.
With her directing debut, Jody Goodman has delivered a satisfying production for Epicentre. Together with her creative team she recreates the vitality and decadence of the nineteen twenties in America. The costume designs by Nicola Rule with assistant Gabi Andrews work well. The set design by Goodman, clearly created on minimal budget, was effective, with the main action at Tom and Daisy’s place and surrounds happening at the front section of the stage and the ‘haunting’ vista of Jay Gatsby’s mansion peering out from the back.
Goodman wins good performances from her cast. Adam Garden makes for a very credible Jay Gatsby as did Brett Joachim as his new friend but ‘old sport’ Nick Carroway. Joachim’s performance made me reflect on how powerful these narrator roles can be. Especially those narrator roles where the narrator finds himself caught up in a whole new world where his idealistic nature is shattered, and his allegiances and loyalties are torn. Another narrator role came to mind, that of Stingo in William Styron’s classic, haunting novel Sophie’s Choice.
Kate Gandy impressed as the fickle Daisy, as did Heidi Baleisi as her friend, Jordan. As Daisy’s ‘under siege’ husband Tom, Matt Cook’s performance came across powerfully.
Of the two Acts, the performance after interval appeared the stronger. Act 2 started out on a light note with a well performed twenties jazz/flapper number however the action soon heated up. The big confrontation scene between the love triangle was well played out as was the tragic scene where an unseen Daisy runs over Myrtle, played by Lauren Hollingworth, after she has raced out onto the street following on from a raging argument and left her husband George, played by Matthew Grasso.
All in all, an impressive production by this respected northside theatre troupe, who have served their local community well for some forty five years now. The Company’s move to its new venue at Ku-ring-gai Town Hall appears to be working well, as does its decision to incorporate a cabaret style table seating arrangement where theatregoers are invited to bring their own food and drink provisions – alcohol is allowed – and ‘dine out’ out on the show.
THE GREAT GATSBY represents its third and final production of the year, following on from revivals of Neil Simon’s RUMOURS in April and Ray Lawler’s SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL in June. For performance times and bookings visit-