“Gatsby believed in the green light”, and clearly so does The Great Gatsby: Work in Progress – a cast that have equally put their heart and soul into their work. With 1920’s costumes, music and even dancing, the play distinctly captures the carefree life-style of New York and America in the 1920s, as well as the money orientated characters from the original F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

We follow the story of Nick Carraway (Nick Gill) as he tries to make his way through 1920’s America with those who are ‘old money’ inherited from their families, and those, like Gatsby (Harry Pavlou), who have made it their goal to make it to the top at all costs, forming the ‘new money’. Although Gatsby is a ‘love story’ between Gatsby (Pavlou) and Daisy (Sophie Walton), Laura Jayne Bateman’s adaptation is one that puts Nick (Gill) at the heart of it all, where Gatsby is often – and arguably mistakenly – placed.

“Gill’s performance stole the show”

In this way, Bateman’s theatre piece is giving the green light to incredible acting, as Gill appeared to shine as the narrator, as well as debatably the main character that has to experience life in West Egg and East Egg, surrounded by a “rotten crowd” of the rich American’s elite. Gill’s performance stole the show. Naturally, he portrayed a Nick Carraway that felt identical to that of the original novel, a true asset to Bateman’s writing and his cast. Gill makes the play just as much about Nick experiences, as well as the story of Gatsby (Pavlou). Nick (Gill) confidently walking in and out of the action to address the audience on his thoughts and feelings, Bateman’s play not only broke the fourth wall, but brought the audience closer to what was happening.

“Bateman’s theatre piece is giving the green light to incredible acting”

The set choices were outstanding in this play, with a green light and green parts of costumes to represent the famous symbol and an important decision to use a screen at the back of the stage to show silhouettes of off-screen action. The use of shadows not only opened the play, but were used significantly for transport (such as a train) and for the actors such as Pavlou and Sasha Butler to become minor characters – Wilson and Myrtle. A critique for this set choice would be the lack of use of “Dr. TJ Eclkeburg’s eyes”, that could have been used as an obvious glasses silhouette easily to enhance the repeated phrases and links characters refer to.

“This play would have been lost without its incredible choices of music and sound effects”

The little use of props allowed the play to become fast paced, using often only stools to represent different locations and even transport such as cars. This allowed the acting to be the key focus of the play, with the help of a few sound effects – such as rain and party music. The rain was a very subtle yet enhancing technique, forming a realistic background to arguably one of Pavlou’s best scenes – reuniting with Daisy (Walton) – with comical facial expressions and gestures of nerves. This play would have been lost without its incredible choices of music and sound effects. The only fault with this jazz music, however, would be the inconsistent balance of sound level, as often Gill appeared to be shouting over the top of this to narrate the chaos that was happening around him in America!

“A true showcase for the talent of all 5 actors”

As this piece was “Working Progress”, Bateman had allowed the audience to view the rest of the play that was being worked on with scripts – a true showcase for the talent of all 5 actors. Despite having scripts, each actor had passion in their performance and were hardly reading, especially that of Gill and Bradley. This really showcased the play’s incredible potential, as the audience became engrossed in the plot, which was developed by the unbelievable acting of Bradley and Pavlou during the final heated scenes of anger, heartache and shock.

A working progress that is exceptionally polished. Get and see the final version, you will not be disappointed.

Jessica Rushton


Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre

STUFF is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Wednesday 15th June. For more information and to book tickets, see here.

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