If you have ever longed to speak with the legendary characters of Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel, this is the show you simply cannot miss.
Nick Carraway (Michael Lambourne) received an invitation from the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Oliver Tilner) to his party, and last night at The Fleeting Arms this invitation was extended to the audience. We were treated with the famous hospitality of Mr Gatsby as we walked into his mansion, and we slowly came to know those connected to him. In perhaps the most interactive theatre play ever performed at the pub, we were no longer merely listeners and readers of Nick’s narrative, but participants. Tom Buchanan (Thomas Mellar) appeared with his over-the-top costume and sunglasses;his wife Daisy (Amie Burns Walker) and friend Jordan Baker (Holly Beasley-Garrigan) were social butterflies, constantly engaged talking to different guests. With Myrtle (Hannah Davies) and George Wilson (Phil Grainger) serving us alcohol, leisurely we danced, played polo and stepped into the world of the 1920s American world – a world of love, affairs, betrayals, money, and murder.
The change of narrative is the soul of this production. The entire audience becomes part of the story – personally, having Gatsby praising my festive jumper was the highlight of the night. The overwhelming number of variables present a challenge extremely difficult for any production company to master, yet director Alexander Wright handles them with complete professionalism. At no point was the performance shaken by involvement (or lack thereof, especially at the beginning) from the audience; all six actors were astonishing throughout. Costume design (Tabitha Grive and Mr Fox Upcycled Clothing) and the hairstyling of Bang Hair were essential components to the play’s success: with the elegant outfits, The Great Gatsby overwhelms the audience with a sense of nostalgia by surrounding them with images from a bygone time. The casting is as close to perfection as one could ask for. Each actor, from their appearance to their method of approaching their character, convinced me that there could be no better choice for these known and loved figures.
There is a sense of inevitability as the story unfolds
There is one natural drawback of the show: changes to the narrative means that members of the audience must make an active choice to follow some of the scenes, especially after pivotal moment of the car crash, and it would possibly cause some confusion for those who are not familiar with the story. Conversely, this unique production serves as an incredibly powerful incentive torea the book for the first time, or to revisit Gatsby’s mansion once again!
There is a sense of inevitability as the story unfolds: despite mixed opinions about the Buchanans’ behaviour, there seems to be an underlying sense for the audience to support the story as it is. Presented with Tom’s pleas insisting it was Gatsby driving the car, and Daisy paralysed with panic, the original ending of the book appears as be the only outcome that can resolve the fate of each character. Opening and closing with the infamous line of Fitzgerald – “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”, – each person at The Fleeting Arms, including the actors, are sunk to the role of a spectator of the past. A history that could only be intelligible in its imperfect sadness; a story that would only make sense with its inherent tragedy, all manifests itself in the most touching way possible.
The Great Gatsby is showing 03th to 31st Dec, with Christmas special on the 23rd and New Year’s Eve special on the 31st at The Fleeting Arms. Tickets could be purchased on here.
*Photography by Chris Mackins