With the Covid-19 restrictions on theatre capacity being lifted at long last, it is with great anticipation that the Cape Town Theatre Company’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby opened at The Star Theatre (the main theatre of the former Fugard Theatre) last week.
Though I have never been a fan of THE GREAT GATSBY, I can appreciate why many hail this tragic story as a F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The Cape Town Theatre Company, made up of committed amateur players, has with much enthusiasm brought to stage their version of this classic tale. They set themselves the task of keeping the 1920s character, while giving their production a contemporary tempo with an avant-garde feel. Striking this balance is a big ask, even of professional productions. They may not succeed at every aspect in providing a perfect synergy between the elements, but the vision behind it all can be appreciated.
The production celebrates the themes (power, greed, regret, betrayal) of the novel well, while strongly leaning into the money-talks, party-feel setting. The play isn’t a musical per se, but it has some musical interludes with a few dance-numbers in the mix. Some of these feel a bit too interpretative-dance to fit the 1920s jazz bill (even from a modern perspective), but the troupe seem unphased by any challenge this may bring, their commitment to their performance always on full display.
Although the various styles on display in the production don’t consistently work together for the purposes of creating a unified piece, the theatrical promise it brings is a lovely tribute to the commitment theatre demands of its followers: I’ve seen professional productions that are less slick, and I appreciate the collective effort it takes for these amateur theatre-lovers to juggle day-jobs and their passion to bring this vision to the stage.
As production set is charming. One could imagine it as having jumped off the pages of the F Scott Fitzgerald novel; a true asset to the production. The fact that scene changes aren’t always the smoothest actually adds to the charm of it all. As is the fact that the singers and the live band don’t always seem to be on the same music sheet, with their occasionally detached rapport endearingly entertaining too.
From the ranks of this committed cast, a stand-out who clearly feels at home onstage is David Wilke: He plays Nick Carraway and has an easy manner about him, which makes for a lovely narration of the unfolding story.
Whether you are a fan of the classic tale, or a theatre-lover who wants to support an amateur troupe who has the guts and the vision to realise their stage dreams, then you may want to head on over to the Star Theatre (next to the D6 Homecoming Centre) before 9 July 2022 and let Nick Carroway tell you about the tragic story of Jay Gatsby and his pursuit of his long-lost-love Daisy Buchanan in this not flawless but always vibrant staging of THE GREAT GATSBY. Tickets are available online via Quicket.