A definitively original interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, by The Wardrobe Ensemble is an evocative and surprising piece of work in the form of a two-woman show that perfectly emulates the relationship between a classic age-old story and a Covid-era performance.
Though there were parts that were perhaps confusing to someone such as myself, who has only consumed traditional theatrical performances for some time, there is no doubt that the performance conveys its own eye-opening interpretation of The Great Gatsby.
Having read the book multiple times and seen Baz Luhrmann’s film adaption, I am the first to admit that I came into this performance with certain expectations that weren’t necessarily met. Through this, however, I was able to explore a different facet of the story that was unreachable by other depictions.
The conventional side of me that grew up watching Shakespeare on the stage was appalled at the lack of extravagance and traditionalism presented in the performance, but rightfully so. By the end of it, I came to realise that this performance gave me what I needed – a different perspective.
The truth is, the way we consume the arts has changed significantly. Although the classics are classics for a reason, we have to be willing to try different methods of storytelling and continue to progress as a society. Just because some things make us uncomfortable doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be expressed, or revered for their originality and creativity.
Although it took me a minute to adjust my perceptions, my favourite part of the performance was the acting exhibited by Tamsin Hurtado Clarke and Jesse Meadows. Having to voice multiple different characters with their own unique personas at once, constantly shifting back and forth, is a very difficult thing to do and they pulled it off brilliantly. In particular, it was Tamsin Hurtado Clarke’s interpretation of Jordan Baker and Tom Buchanan that had me falling off my seat.
The Great Gatsby is a tale in which the extravagance of material wealth, coupled with the depravity in the toxic love exhibited throughout the story, is usually key in setting the scene and conveying the tone. However, with this performance, gone are the elaborate costumes and sets, the façade of extravagance stripped away to only the bare minimum.
Instead, the actors depicted different characters without relying on staging- from the change in tone and pitch to their accents; from slipping a different jacket on to adjusting their body movements. That kind of acting is impressive, as you don’t have any of the normal distractions on stage to rely on or set the character for you. It is just you up there and bringing a character to life with nothing but the ability to shift your voice and your movements is brilliant, to say the least.
One other aspect of the show that stood out was the sound effects and lighting, especially the portrayal of the green light flickering at the end of the dock – arguably one of the most iconic symbols in the entire novel.
There were also parts, however, that were reminiscent of the type of cringe humour borne out of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, with modern dancing and flashing colourful lights that emanate a 21st-century nightclub scene.
For everything that it’s worth, this performance of The Great Gatsby was a titillating, at times uncomfortable, and eye-opening experience. It is the type of show that would be perfect for the Fringe once we can have it again.
Until then, if you would enjoy the telling of Fitzgerald’s story in perhaps a more modern and precocious fashion, then this show is for you. And if you’re like me who prefers their theatre in a more traditional sense – give it a chance. Maybe you will end up enjoying it more than you thought you would.