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The Great Gatsby

F Scott Fitzgerald, adapted by Deborah McAndrew

Storyhouse Originals

Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester

July 21-August 27, 2023; 2 hrs 15 mins

An American summer... in Chester. The Great Gatsby in the Grosvenor Park outdoor theatre
An American summer... in Chester. The Great Gatsby at the Grosvenor Park outdoor theatre

Banner showing a four-star review rating

Cocktails outdoors on a summer evening, "West Egg", New York, 1922? Well no, it's Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester in 2023 – an apt venue for a Storyhouse production of The Great Gatsby.

In some respects the play is uncannily modern, untrammelled hedonism – a hankering after wealth and breaking free from traditional morality. At other times, it is quaint, with evocative jazz numbers and period dancing.

Gatsby is a man from a humble background who has the temerity to fall in love with a woman of status, Daisy. They are separated by World War I, and Gatsby resolves to make a fortune to win her back. In the meantime she undergoes a society wedding to a man she initially loves before his extra-marital affairs undermine their relationship.

Gatsby gains his wealth by shadowy means, but becomes a mysterious newcomer to wealthy, landed New York society, who throws magnificent parties to engineer a reunion with Daisy. At its heart then, as well as an astute social comment, it is a tragic love story, since all ends in disaster.

The play opens with a tribunal to explain the unfortunate ending, before being interrupted by character Nick Carraway, who offers the true order of events rather than have us rely on gossip and hearsay.

The cast does a great job in communicating the story; Thomas Cotran as Carraway and Matthew Ganley in multiple roles are excellent. Two members were making their professional debut. Actors move seamlessly between acting and playing an instrument, while others dance. The music throughout is keenly evocative of the 1920s ambience. The first act moves quite slowly, but the second is gripping as the story comes to its head.

The Grosvenor Park arena surrounds the acting area, with four entrances, putting audience members close to the action. There are attempts to engage the audience, with individuals invited on stage to dance 1920s style. The cast keeps the volume up, so there are no problems hearing dialogue even when they are facing away. There are also captions to ensure audience members don't miss details.

This faithful production, – I saw a preview – works well in the open, which in itself is a lovely experience, offering warm weather (mostly), a picnic and some wine while a production unfolds in front of you.

It is worth getting along to Grosvenor Park while the weather holds, to slip back to the 1920s and see how the other half lived and loved.

Tickets and information here


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