Ruby in the Dust Theatre Company have a history of re-imagining classic stories as musicals, from Romeo and Juliet to Bonnie and Clyde. They’ve made it their speciality to add their own spin and perform with a live orchestra, and this production of Gatsby has already had a successful run at the Kings Head Theatre, so there is quite a buzz for this latest production.
This production is a showcase, and the play is performed on the American Idiot set with limited design and limited opportunity to see this ambitious show.
The mood is set from the start with the delightful Benoit Veillefon Orchestra already in full jazz swing as the audience takes their seats. And then it begins – and it’s apparent immediately that this is not a simple musical version of the book, this is very much a vision of the novel or a version of the story. If you love the book then there is lots to enjoy here, but leave your preconceptions at the door and be prepared to go with the flow.
This is Daisy Buchanan’s story, – her voice is full of money – played beautifully with just enough hint of unhinged by Matilda Sturridge. A delicious portrayal of Daisy, spoiled, lonely, disappointed and doggedly romantic.
She’s joined in her lazy delusions by her friend Jordan Baker, played with a swagger and a bounce by Ellie Dunn, both are bored, both struggling in the heat of the summer, so when Nick and then Gatsby come into their lives at least they have playthings to amuse them. And so this dark story of careless people unravels, with some stand out performances from Kim Medcalf (Myrtle) and Maria Coyne (Catherine). Simon Bailey plays Tom Buchanan as suitably unlikeable and impenetrable and in many ways the worst of the bunch. Much is made of the $350,000 pearl necklace that he gave Daisy on their wedding day – but is this a man who cares about anything other than money and winning?
We don’t hear that much from Nick (Sebastian Blunt) he’s there as the ‘amused and cynical observer’ and he at times is the moral heart of the play, at times the voice of Scott Fitzgerald, but he is always an outsider, always on the edges and distanced a little from his ‘friends’.
And then there is Gatsby himself – David Ricardo Pearce has a pleasing Redford-esque quality to his performance and keeps us guessing about Gatsby. Is he an Oxford man, a bootlegger or a murderer? There’s really enjoyable depth to his motives in this version. Does he love Daisy or is she a representation of something? Is he no better than Tom Buchanan but a little more flash and a little less brash?
Of course there is singing and dancing and some great set pieces (as well as some songs that don’t work quite as well). But this version of the story is about the loneliness and carelessness of these people rather than the glamour, this is the flip side to the glitter and the fantasy. There is enough dialogue and imagery straight from the book to keep hardened Gatsby fans entertained working out which bits have been lifted from where and shuffled around.
It won’t be for everyone, and sometimes the balance between play and musical can feel a little confused, but there are some beautiful voices up there and a dark, powerful musical itching to get out. Gatsby was first presented in 2012 and again in 2013 where it received A Best New Musical Off West End Award nomination. It runs at the Arts Theatre on Mondays until 16th November, 2015.
Review by Roz Wyllie
Ruby In The Dust’s acclaimed adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic Jazz Age novel comes to the Arts Theatre for a limited, exclusive, showcase production, featuring the renowned Benoit Veillefon Orchestra.
The cast includes Kim Medcalf (Sally Bowles in Rufus Norris’ Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre West End, Sam Mitchell in Eastenders, Sorrell in Hay Fever at the Haymarket alongside Dame Judi Dench); Matilda Sturridge, who was in the premiere at the King’s Head in 2012 and is reprising her role as Daisy Buchanan; and Ellie Nunn (who played the eponymous Lady Windermere in Ruby In The Dust’s production of Lady Windermere’s Fan last year).
Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach… Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.
Set in the sizzling heat of a 1920s New York Summer, “Gatsby” was first presented in 2012 and again in 2013 where it received a BEST NEW MUSICAL – Off West End Award nomination.
26th October to 16th November 2015
Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB