Gatz!

Yes, I went to see Gatz! Eight hours and fifteen minutes of theatre. So how was it to sit there for eight hours, you may ask.

Y’know when you’re on a long haul flight, leaving London knowing that seven or eight hours later you will arrive in Beijing, or Miami, or another exciting place?

The first hour drags a bit. You get up and walk around. The second hour you really get into your book/magazine/movie. Then—dinner break. Then read another hour or more, walk around. By the time you land you’re thinking, ‘I’m sorry that’s over. I’d really like to keep going.’

That’s how it felt.

I knew that the text was a reading of the complete The Great Gatsby—one of my all time favourites. I didn’t realize that the only text was The Great Gatsby. Any other chatting between narrator Nick Carraway and his office-mates on stage was mouthed or mimed.

So Scott Fitzgerald had to carry the whole weight. And, as expected, Gatsby is definitely up for the job.

There were fabulously memorable parts that I hadn’t remembered at all from the book. The images from the Robert Redford film, which I had seen right after I’d read it for the first time, and have used in my Gatsby presentations, came back to me. Some of the wonderful lines even sounded better: ‘Her voice is full of money.’ Scott Shepherd, playing Nick, brought the language and the voices alive.

Getting the most out of my trip down to London, I also attended the talk ‘The Great Gatsby’ at the Southbank Centre the evening before. The four erudite panel members were very interesting, but, as usual, the best questions came from the audience.

All were complementary about the humour in the book, and thankful that Gatz!, by New York’s Elevator Repair Service company, brought this out.

I particularly appreciated Nick’s dry descriptions of characters who border on the absurd, such as Tom Buchanan, Fitzgerald’s unknowing precursor of Nazi sympathizers.

So the humour in Gatz! was welcome. But in the post-dinner second half, I felt there were parts played for laughs that Fitzgerald hadn’t intended that way. Of course he based Daisy Buchanan on his wife Zelda. But he loved Zelda; he was absolutely in awe of her. He didn’t think of her as silly, or as a fool. I think in Daisy’s carelessness he was showing how a womea like that wreaks havoc on others, without realizing what effect she has.

For example, I don’t think he wrote the famous scene with the shirts—‘They’re such beautiful shirts…It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before’—as humour at all. Daisy truly wept at the sight of such shirts.

And he gave her the immortal lines about the birth of her daughter:  ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing that a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’ That resonates with all women who are not fools—and feel there is little reward in their self-awareness.

So thumbs up for Gatz! Get an aisle seat so you can stick your leg out, scope out a nearby restaurant ahead of time, and definitely buy the program. That’s where I found out that the Elevator Repair Service was co-founded by one of the producers of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. That explains a lot.

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