Review | Gatz Is Great: The Great Gatsby comes alive at Perth Festival

Gatz | Octagon Theatre | 1-3 March | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Superb. That’s the word that spilled out of my mouth when first asked to describe Gatz, currently showing at the Octagon Theatre as part of Perth Festival and performed by New York theatre company Elevator Repair Service. Spread across eight hours of performance and breaks, and adapted from one of the most heralded novels of the 20th century, I had high hopes when I first sat down for the opening act. Thankfully, my enthusiasm was not misguided. 

Elevator Repair Service have been performing this award-winning theatrical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby since 2008, and yet they still managed to bring an air of excitement and freshness into their performances that many actors would struggle to maintain in a brand-new show. 

Directed by John Collins, this theatrical run of the show boasts one of the most veteran and experienced ensembles I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Fittingly so, the roles of Gatsby (Jim Fletcher), and Nick Carroway (Scott Shepherd), stood out as the strongest performances of the play. However, each character in the play was brought to life by wickedly talented actors who never missed a beat. 

Unfortunately, no amount of talent can overcome the fact that with a combined runtime of just over 6 hours, modern audiences who tire of something in a few minutes will struggle to stay fully engaged with the work. In scenes of pure monologue or narration, the clock can seem to slow down as the dazzling spectacles of flying paper or intensely choreographed arguments are forgotten; replaced by far slower scenes where the audience is no longer on the edge of their seat. Admittedly, this is not terrible. In fact, the book it is based upon features many a moment where the action is paused, only for the narrator to ramble. In that regard, Gatz has nailed its adaptation of the book.  

Overall the show truly nailed the adaptation, and I was thrilled at how the play managed to capture The Great Gatsby’s ebb and flow of tension. 

Whilst the Octagon Theatre is not the most obvious choice of performance space for international theatre shows to perform at in Perth, I cannot imagine Gatz in any other venue. The wide viewing angles and overall design of the theatre lent a certain air of engagement with the piece, front row audience members could have easily – but thankfully did not – reach out and touch the actors.  

The design and production of Gatz also benefits from a long list of awarded veterans, with the attention to detail of the set and costuming, no matter how big or small, continually stunning me. Especially in moments when I didn’t expect it to. 

Gatz features lighting design by Mark Barton, scenic design by Louisa Thompson, costume design by Colleen Werthmann, and sound design by Ben Williams. The Associate Director is Steve Bodow. 

Whilst this is not the first nor the last adaptation of The Great Gatsby, Gatz’s nuanced performances and spectacular attention to detail make for a spectacularly solid piece of theatre, even if it does have a long runtime.  

Gatz is showing at the Octagon Theatre until Sunday March 3rd, as part of the Perth Festival. More information can be found at Perth Festival here

Davis Burke

Image:- Mark Barton


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