The Great Gatsby

Tackling an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, one of the most famous and beloved novels ever written, is not a task taken on lightly but it is one the Nottingham New theatre rises too, bringing the wit and bittersweet poignancy of F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal American classic to the stage successfully.

does a wonderful job of creating a sense of pulsing energy, with upbeat jazz and swing acting as a suitable accompaniment for the action on stage

The story concerns Nick Carraway, a young man new in New York who is drawn into the indulgent and decadent lives of his Cousin Daisy and her brutish Husband Tom, only to find himself intrigued by the mysterious Jay Gatsby. The adaptation does a very good job of abridging and compressing the story of the novel into a single hour without feeling like too much is lost, though the omission of characters like Meyer Wolfsheim may rub book purists up the wrong way, the cuts for the large part make sense and help to adapt the novel for the stage format. Indeed the script tries to remain as faithful to the text as it can, with the majority of the dialogue lifted directly from Fitzgerald’s prose. Whilst in many cases adapting a novel to the stage in this way means the dialogue becomes awkward and stilted, here it flows surprisingly well, and the performers have such a clear grasp of the language and text that it comes off as naturally as possible.

Indeed the performances are wonderful, each actor embodying their character with a great deal of subtle characterisation in stance and posture that makes them feel all the more real and fully formed, like they’ve stepped out of the pages of the novel itself.

All of this is accompanied by wonderful stage and lighting design, with a set of see-through flats at the back of the stage allowing silhouettes and shadow outlines to dance across them and to create dazzling displays of colour to set the tone of the scene by projecting lights onto them. The sound design too does a wonderful job of creating a sense of pulsing energy, with upbeat jazz and swing acting as a suitable accompaniment for the action on stage.

The one aspect of the production that can be taken issue with is the sections of dance peppered through it; whilst certainly well-choreographed and nice to watch they are largely superfluous to the rest of the show and do not act as ways of advancing plot or character development. With the exception of a dance between Gatsby and Daisy, wonderfully used to represent Daisy’s conflicted love for Gatsby with her fear of the consequences for her marriage, they are largely just show pieces and distract from the rest of the play.

Aside from this, this Gatsby comes well recommended: an adaptation of novel that is not to be missed. 

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

In 1922, New York reaches boiling point: parties are longer, morals are looser, liquor is stronger and jazz is hotter. When impressionable Nick Carraway arrives to seek his fortune, he is drawn into the decadent, hedonistic world of America’s elite. But when tragedy strikes, he is forced to decide whether money matters more than his morality. Following a sell-out run at the Nottingham New Theatre, this ‘terrific production’ **** ( has a ‘wonderfully unique and enthralling concept’ (Impact) guaranteed to bring to life one of the greatest novels ever written.