THEATRE – The Great Gatsby – The Space – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

Jay Gatsby lived for five years harbouring a massive dream. In conceiving The Great Gatsby for the stage, Rob Croser’s Independent Theatre Company has embarked on realising a dream of seemingly similar dimensions. The difference between them is that Croser’s has been realised superbly.

I’m unsure whether this production of Gatsby has commercial potential (I think I counted 17 cast members during the encores) but it successfully challenges an albeit small novel that nonetheless is packed with action, twists, turns and meaty sub plots and, of course, its wall to wall luminous language. In the wake of the Baz Lurhmann’s mega production of a few years back, adapting such an iconic story for the stage is ambitious requiring skill both on the page and the stage. In this Croser’s own efforts have been complimented by a consummate performance by Will Cox as Nick Carraway.

Cox as a player and our narrator spends the entire near three hours on stage sustaining his New York accent as well as his conviction as the audience’s conscious and a command of Fitzgerald’s prose that is simply a delight. Again Independent Theatre has unearthed another top flight talent. I hope those smarties who award those annual theatre prizes see Will Cox in action.

Of course, such efforts could fail without the man himself measuring up and in Lindsay Prodea Gatsby’s enigmatic self; that mix of the suave and the smarmy, is ideally captured. Like Carraway, the audience is left by Prodea’s Gatsby totally unsure about the merits of the man.

In keeping with the production’s ambitions, IT has developed a sumptuous stage; a creamy white blazing tribute to art deco in which the white tuxedo jackets and dissy girls look very much at home. In such a setting Madeleine Herd’s Daisy Buchanan shines, a beauty for the beautiful people as she convincingly depicts her character’s delicate heart being pulled apart by two men of possessive motives and the sad dead weight that is the effluxion of time.

But no production of Gatsby could stand without a sufficient infusion of jazz – it was after all Fitzgerald himself who coined the term ‘the Jazz Age’ – and in Ben Francis we get our fix. When singing, Francis is in the all-white colours of the era, atop Gatsby’s stairs serenading and enchanting in his luscious tones. With his blond hair and youthful looks, Francis’ jazz singer seems to represent the joys of life the others he sings to have sold themselves out on.

One could go on but better to see it for yourself. Let this be that green light that lures you to a pearl from Adelaide’s amateur theatre scene that, unlike Gatsby’s own, won’t disappoint.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

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