In the book the show is based on, F.Scott Fitzgerald writes “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I’d only be preaching to the choir if I said anything about theatre and covid struggles, so I won’t go further on that. Theatres and productions are doing their best to swim against a ferocious tide of upheaval. Nevertheless, stars needn’t be given out like stickers just for taking part.
Gatsby is set in 1929, 7 years after the events of the original story, but we spend most of our time in 1922. If this is in fact, an exploration of the after effects in Daisy’s story, she is too passive; re-living memories but not letting audience in on why until after the interval. When the mystery is solved, it felt very much a like a quick fix rather than an investment in our protagonist. We lose the thread of the original device for the production; it’s a nice add-on, but an add-on. And if Reedman wanted to make the show more culturally relevant to now, the tiny references are more a vehicle to justify the show itself, which it doesn’t need; it’s just another add-on.
I didn’t care about the premise; it didn’t add to the show. Reedman and Evans could have done a straight adaptation of the original and it would have been enough because what they have created outside of the device is beautiful and engaging to watch. You really want to be part of it all, willing someone to pour you a gin so you can join the fun and fancy of it. The show moves naturally and is paced well. It’s a small shoestring budget show but it really didn’t feel that way. The cast and musicians do a wonderful job of bringing the vibe of the era to life. Jodie Steele’s Daisy is beautifully vulnerable, while Ross William Wild’s Gatsby is sometimes so expressive that he comes off as childish, and detracts from the calculated character we know Jay Gatsby to be. The rest of the cast do their best to deliver, and deliver they do. The relationships are nuanced and delicate. I forgot about the world outside of the black box and found myself warmly welcomed and immersed into Gatsby’s world.
The weather and mood of the city at this time of year, this particularly difficult year, can be summed up in a single matt colour; grey. Everything is just so bloody grey.
It’s hard to predict what a musical about Gatsby would look like without the influence of Baz Luhrmann’s film, sparkling like light bouncing from the chandeliers.
But somehow, Ruby in The Dust’s production does just that. Perhaps even more dazzlingly so.