Dirty dancing and an intimate game of Chinese whispers open Blur’s The Great Gatsby, settingthe tone for a tantalising Broadway-style performance. This young and fresh reimagining of Fitzgerald’s novel, with its cabaret atmosphere and borderline S&M outfits, feels even naughtier in the Assembly Roxy, a venue that was once a church.
Nick Carraway narrates the classic tale of excess in the roaring twenties through the parties of Jay Gatsby, a man who hosts hundreds of guests each night but is truly known by no-one except for Daisy, the one that got away. Their reunion is blissful while it lasts but is doomed to fail once Daisy’s violent and cheating husband Tom catches on. The show races towards catastrophe at the dizzying speed of Gatsby’s motor car.
It’s clear that the New York-based company are trained dancers as well as actors and, with the help of some exceptionally slick choreography, they create a very stylish piece. But behind the spectacle there’s something missing and the piece is crying out for a bit more flesh on its script to match the flesh on display, or perhaps simply a better sound balance to make what’s already here a little more audible.
Although great chunks of dialogue are lost to thumping bass lines and live singing, The Great Gatsby still manages to convey most of the drama and tragedy of the central love story. Heavily dependent on projected film and a modern music track, the production owes far more to Luhrmann than to literature and these additions really enhance the show. The film clips add depth to the characters that the live performances don’t deliver while the musical numbers, which range from Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ to Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’, are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Overflowing with sexiness and the spirit of the twenties, The Great Gatsby has both style and substance, shamelessly prioritising the former and letting the latter fall into place almost as an afterthought.
The Great Gatsby is at Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.