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In a bare bones set piece, this two-woman retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby tumbles you into the heart of the Roaring 20s. Merging theatre and film, the stream is cinematic. The frames translate live performance directly to video leaving rewarding close ups and hand-held shaking as the plot thickens. Since the set is so raw, they must use everything at their disposal to push the narrative ahead. Solo cups become old time telephones and a sofa becomes everything from a train to a car. While the stripped back shabbiness isn’t quite as glamorous as the book, the imaginative ingenuity is magic in itself. They trace a toy car all across their bodies to mark their journeys, bringing the text to life.
Tamsin Hurtado Clarke and Jesse Meadows make for a boisterous duo, their transitions are sharp with lovely unison: they sequence multiple sections and they’re always in tune; clutch microphones as they recount Fitzgerald’s writing with resounding control; and toast and chug champagne to mark the opening of each new chapter. There is something so mesmerising about watching two women performing overt femininity with flare, as it envisions archetypes from the perspective of women. Their masculinity is equally vibrant with a macho-gentleman Tom Buchanan, puffing himself up for a makeshift sex-scene (which is crafted through the duo yelling whilst ducked behind a sofa). With swift multi-roleing, Meadows flips an overshirt up and down to indicate her transitions from man to woman. It’s a colourful awakening of gender performativity.
Technology is the bones of this production, sewing all of the plot together with stagecraft magic. Crafting a party scene with two bodies is a magnificent challenge and it is no surprise that some of the sequences fall a little short. Yet there’s something so tantalising about cute little firework pops made with the flash of a stage lantern. The soundscape whooshes and throbs as the characters grow drunker.
At times, the microphone dips, turning Meadows’s natural voice into an elder George Wilson. In bold strobe, the duo thrash paint at the back wall, building a mural which they will later tear to shreds.
As a retelling, The Great Gatsby is a strongly executed exercise in structure. If you love the book, this adaptation honours the source text in its intact entirety and passionately stages it with gusto. As the performance ends, we are left with a single round light bulb, glimmering like the moon.
The Great Gatsby is playing online until 31st March. For more information and tickets, see The Wardrobe Theatre’s website.