F Scott Fitzgerald, adapted by Alexander Wright
Theatr Clwyd | The Guild of Misrule
Dolphin Hotel, Mold High Street
June 21 –Aug 27; 2 hrs 10 mins
The lights are low, the drinks are on ice, a piano rag is playing and a lady sings. It's a cracking opening to a highly creative adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby.
The show is the major summer event for Theatr Clwyd, a revival of a highly successful play from 2018, performed in what is the formerly derelict Dolphin Hotel in Mold High Street, not far from the theatre.
It is an immersive production, with a small audience for each performance, all intimately involved in the show. Set in a speakeasy, the atmosphere is great in darkened, smoky rooms with low ceilings that create the idea that something illicit is taking place – and you're a part of it.
Being immersive, the actors mingle with the audience and tell the story of this well known tale of unrequited love. The central character is Daisy (Bethan Rose Young), a socialite with whom Gatsby (Richard McIver) falls in love during World War I. When he is posted overseas she marries old money, in the form of Tom Buchanan (Troy Marcus Richards). After the war Gatsby, fabulously rich through bootlegging during prohibition, is on a quest to win her back from the unfaithful Tom, throwing sumptuous parties to attract her attention.
There is much imagination used in getting the small audience to get involved. Cast members select then take individuals away to make them privy to their story – it is rather odd to hear Daisy pour her heart out to three strangers. There are dance lessons, and viewers are asked to create a scene. In addition, the action moves between the jazz dance room and the bar to mark scene changes, and the audience moves with it.
The actors do a great job in keeping their cues snappy, making asides to the audience then occupying the space in a crowded room, ensuring all can hear, ably supported by a tech team that unobtrusively ensures all is in place.
The first act is optimistic and joyous, with plenty of fun. The second is much darker, with the tensions and rivalries between characters drawn out well. When you are taken off to witness a side scene, you might wonder what you missed, but are generally taken deeper into the story, the script manipulated so no one misses out on the action.
The novel, not considered successful by Fitzgerald, is an acute social commentary on 1920s high life. There are conflicts in class and between old and new money. There is focus on the lack of opportunity for women – even if they have money. The play picks up on these themes and explores them well, with few concessions to modernity.
It's a logistically difficult play to perform but cast and crew do a highly-professional, intriguing job, engaging the audience, communicating the story and moving things with a swing. You don't need a burning desire to act to enjoy the evening; shrinking violets will enjoy it just as much.
There is space for only a small audience at each performance, but with a long summer season, there are plenty of opportunities to experience a great night's entertainment. It's must-see, must-experience theatre.
More info and tickets here