Independent Theatre is poised to roar into The Space with a new version of what is considered the greatest American novel of the twentieth century – F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic romance, The Great Gatsby.
Gatsby! The very name conjures up glamorous images of cars, cocktails, jazz, and romance. Even people who know nothing of the story understand the mystique.
Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda epitomised the Jazz Age – those heady years between the end of the Great War and the Wall Street crash. Indeed, he even gave the Age its name! It stood for freedom, money, music – and above all, the Parties! – all in the midst of nation-wide Prohibition.
Filmed first as a 1926 silent movie, it has since been a 1949 Alan Ladd film, the glamorous 1974 film with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, a 2000 tele-movie with Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino, and Baz Luhrmann’s recent extravaganza starring Leonardo di Caprio.
Yet the novel itself was not considered “great” when published in 1925. Indeed, it was out of print at the time of Fitzgerald’s tragically early death in 1940.
So, what is it about this little book that has made it so iconic? And what makes a stage version different from all the films? In each of the films, much of the novel is omitted – especially the growing relationship between Nick Carraway and the enigmatic Gatsby, which culminates in the great confessional scenes between the two men, always considered too long and complex for film. Happily, these scenes can be explored theatrically, and add considerable depth to the story – finally justifying Nick’s famous last words to Gatsby: “you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together”.
Director Rob Croser is a prolific adapter of great works of literature to the stage, with Mapp and Lucia, Daniel Deronda, Huckleberry Finn, Pride and Prejudice, East of Eden and The Magnificent Ambersons to his credit. He has been interested in adapting The Great Gatsby for a long time, but it has taken him some years, and a lot of thought, before finding a way into it.
Considered one of the great modern romances, the novel actually contains no real love-dialogue for Gatsby and Daisy, and they are never seen alone together. The various film versions have approached the problem by inventing rather hollow sounding “love scenes” from other Fitzgerald “rich girl/poor boy” short stories.
A recent re-reading of the novel convinced Rob that the story was actually Nick Carraway’s, and Nick’s fascination with the Gatsby/Daisy phenomenon. And so – by retaining Nick’s constant presence and narrative voice – an audience didn’t need to see and hear everything that passed between Gatsby and Daisy, but, instead, go with Nick on his journey of discovery and disillusionment.
Retaining Fitzgerald’s exquisitely poetic, descriptive prose, Rob’s adaptation, thus, becomes a memory play, and a much more richly complex, emotionally satisfying examination of the relationships at the heart of this multi-faceted gem of a novel.
As Nick Carraway, Will Cox – who joined Independent Theatre at 14 for the 2007 To Kill A Mockingbird – is no stranger to this type of massive role. Indeed, he won the Best Actor Curtain Call Award for his never-off-stage narrating role in Independent Theatre’s Huckleberry Finn at age 15.
The cast also features Lindsay Prodea as Jay Gatsby, Madeleine Herd as Daisy Buchanan, Alex Woollatt as Tom Buchanan and Laura Antoniazzi as Jordan Baker.
On a stunning art-deco set designed by Croser, David and Rod Roach, and decked out with kaleidoscopic Roaring Twenties costumes, the production is threaded together with popular ’20s songs and dances performed by Ben Francis (Peter Pan in last year’s Peter and Alice).
Original novel by F Scott Fitzgerald
Adapted to the stage and directed by Rob Croser
The Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season dates: September 3 – 12, 2015
Opening night: 7.45 pm Thursday September 3rd
Extra matinee – Wednesday 9th @ 11.00am
Tickets: BASS 131 246 0r Official BASS website