Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Great Gatsby

A manic day and a mad dash from work is never a great start to an evening. But so Jess and I arrived at Wilton's Music Hall, out of breath and in desperate need of a drink.

Greeted by a gorgeous flapper-clad door girl, we nabbed a quick voddie and were ushered to our seats - a sweet little bench at the back of this ornate music hall (the world's oldest no less). With a sigh of relief we sat back, immediately swept up in the charm and glamour of the scene before us - transported back to the 1920's and into the intriguing plot of F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby.

The cast of Peter Joucla's production was small: just 3 girls and 4 boys, each actor playing both character and chorus-member. With a simple set, the decadence of Fitzgerald's book was spun through the energy and style of the players themselves. And the audience was palpably enthralled, laughing and cheering with abandon. The lightness of the play was added to by the sweet interjections of song and dance by the 'off-duty' cast members, who donned comical heavy rimmed specs to disguise their characters and become part of the chorus. 

As the lights dimmed for the interval, we were invited to Gatsby's party in the bar where actors milled, interacting with the audience and further feeding our enthusiasm. Delicious bar snacks were served: pork pies with rich chutney, scotch eggs with horse radish mustard and salty popcorn all fitting in perfectly with the neatly spun dream.

The second half of the play saw the end of the whimsical lives of the characters and the downfall of the elusive Gatsby. I actually liked the interesting direction around the death of poor old Myrtle, though this did receive a perhaps misplaced laugh from the majority of the audience. 

The last song drew to a jazz-filled close and a buzzing audience filtered back out into the bar. Clearly a preview, the production could do with a little polishing, the accents somewhat variable and the scene changes stilted. But there was a sweetness to the show that forgave it's imperfections. The atmosphere was magical, the beautiful setting of Wilton's working perfectly to create an intimacy that left us bewitched.

After a snoop around the upstairs rooms of this incredible building, it was back out into the rainy night and back to 2012 with a bump. I fear the run is all but sold out, but if I were you I'd rock up and chance it - worse comes to worst you can get yourself a good old pork pie, a glass of red and just soak up the amazingness of this place.

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