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The Lost Generation gets lost on stage

  • The Great Gatsby, Gate Theatre, Dublin

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Plenty to shout about... dancers take the floor

Plenty to shout about... dancers take the floor

Simone Collins (Daisy) with Barry John Kinsella (Gatsby)

Simone Collins (Daisy) with Barry John Kinsella (Gatsby)

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Plenty to shout about... dancers take the floor

'Gatsby' revival seems to be drowning in its own success.

With four major cast changes from the original 2017 production, it was inevitable that the emphasis in the current revival of the phenomenally successful Alexander Wright production of The Great Gatsby at the Gate would change from the original.

That, with Marty Rea as narrator Nick Carroway, Charlene McKenna as Daisy and Paul Mescal as Gatsby, was glittering, frenetically chic and moved like a luxury liner in majestic style.

Although, as already noted, the intricacies of F. Scott Fitzgerald's plot, philosophy and psychological insights didn't feature very largely; but that didn't appear to be the point of Wright's all-singing, all-dancing adaptation. He went all out to re-create visually the Jazz Age among rich New Yorkers, and he succeeded admirably.

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Simone Collins (Daisy) with Barry John Kinsella (Gatsby)

Simone Collins (Daisy) with Barry John Kinsella (Gatsby)

This time around, things are different: all relationship with a play (with music) seems to have disappeared, and the production has become (I'm tempted to say degenerated into) a series of sketches linked by musical numbers.

These numbers, the "greats" of the Twenties and early Thirties are a joy as rendered mainly by Aoibheann McCann as the luckless, longing Myrtle, and Rachel O'Byrne as Jordan, the sportswoman forging a path into what is now called feminism, along with Gerard Kelly as the unfortunate Wilson (with guitar) and Raymond Scannell on piano as McKee.

They're all re-creating their original roles, except that they've shifted several octaves in their dialogue, bellowing without restraint this time round, as is also the case with Mark Huberman as the faithless, arrogant, boorish Tom Buchanan.

This may have something to do with the increased audience participation now written into the script, leaving the cast overwhelmed at times by mass, largely unschooled waves of over-eager audience, all enthusiastically joining in lessons in the Charleston and other spectacles. (At least 50pc of them shouldn't; I mean they really shouldn't.)

The tea-party where Gatsby begins his campaign to win Daisy from her husband is played more like a Morecambe and Wise sketch (except they were funny) and we even have Gatsby appearing briefly in his underwear to make a crack about Feng Shui.

Maybe it all embarrasses Barry John Kinsella as Gatsby, because in addition to shouting his head off, he plays throughout with a fixed grin on his face; enigmatic it ain't. And it's impossible to believe in him as a successful bootlegger, much less a driven obsessive.

Shane O'Reilly's Nick Carroway has a little more depth, but nonetheless, in combination with the shouting, he visibly "acts" at the audience; Marty Rea, in the same role, managed to seem, even as the audience surged round him, to ruminate in the sad, bewildered recall that is the essence of the book.

Simone Collins has replaced Charlene McKenna as Daisy, and while she looks both pretty and elegant, and dances effectively, there is little sense of the elfin allure (so necessary to inspire Gatsby's obsession) that McKenna brought to the role.

I suppose there is a kind of comparison: Fitzgerald's characters were a lost generation, wounded and cast adrift by the overwhelming tragedy of the Great War. At the Gate, the actors seem equally lost but not by tragedy.

Overall, there is an impression that Alexander Wright took a conscious decision to reduce his production to being a backdrop for audiences who are totally uninterested in anything other than themselves.

One gets a sense of "forget Scott Fitzgerald; talented acting; stage discipline; and above all, sincerity".

And audiences are loving it.

Sunday Indo Living