Review: Bang bang – edgy Great Gatsby on stage in Cape Town, June-July 2022
|The Great Gatsby on stage, June 30 to July 9, 2022, The Star Theatre at HCC, Cape Town |
Where: The Star Theatre at HCC (formerly The Fugard Theatre) in District Six
When: June 30 to July 9, 2022
Tickets: R180 at Quicket
Direct booking link: https://www.quicket.co.za/events/177516-the-great-gatsby
I was away in Makhanda, attending National Arts Festival and missed the opening of The Great Gatsby, at the recently opened Star Theatre (ex Fugard). The production is a collab between the Cape Town Theatre Company and Claremont Dramatic Society and has a cast of 27 and a four piece on-stage jazz band. This is a quickie review. The production wraps up this weekend- July 9. This is an ambitious production with an epic set (Michélle Hough), accomplished cast, stunning costumes and jazz band. I found the first half too long, with distractions of sofas and props being carted on and off.
In the 2nd half, after interval, this Great Gatsby cooks. It was edge-of the seat fare, as we hung on to every word, uttered by narrator David Wilke as Nick Carraway, powerfully conveying the character’s sense of being confounded and outraged. We watched Jay Gatsby’s dream imploding on itself. It is a Great Gatsby, which has been turned on its head and is vividly framed in 2022. The costumes are seductive, sure but these are not nice people and this comes across profoundly in this edgy production. Spoiler alert- in the closing scene, Megan Armstrong-Davies, at the microphone, belts out, Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down (the single by American singer-actress Cher from her album, The Sonny Side of Cher – written by her ex-Sonny Cher). The song was used by Quentin Tarantino in his film, Kill Bill Vol. 2. Stephan Fourie, who adapted The Great Gatsby for this production, told me that there was no intention to reference Tarantino but for me the song evokes the sleazy genre of pulp fiction and people gunning it to make problems go away – bang bang – gone.
This production is very different to the 1974 film, which was my first viewing of Gatsby, away from the page. The 1974 film, starred Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Bruce Dern. The casting of Gatsby, Cape Town 2022, includes a hipster pony-tailed Gatsby (Mihir Soni) and Tom Buchanan as the seething polo playing brute (Sinakho Ncala- a wow performance). Gizelle Willows delivers a fabulous Jordan Baker- a chilled out millennial, laconically, checking everyone out. The glammed up Gatsby side of privilege and is pitted against the ordinary folk, Myrtle Wilson (played by Brigitte Simpson) and George Wilson (Yuri Behari-Leak). They deliver knockout performances. Siobhan Taljaard as Daisy Buchanan evokes the insouciance of Daisy, whose voice was full of money. Taljaard teases out the steely complicity of Daisy in the story. There is intense synergy between Daisy and Gatsby (Mihir Soni). I believed their love story – or dream of a love story. This Great Gatsby is edgy and gritty and provides a potent contemporary adaption of the iconic novel. It is set in period but the use of songs like Bang, Bang and I am Feeling Good, textures the production with nuances which reverberate in multiple directions. The famous Fitzgerald words ping out, loudly in 2022: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” True. Globally, we are all in a mess because of other peoples’ actions. I was intrigued by this production. Go and see The Great Gatsby, on stage, at the Star Theatre in Cape Town. Bravo to the Cape Town Theatre Company and Claremont Dramatic Society for this big production – with all the bells and whistles of a Broadway or West End Musical – epic set, costumes; vibrant company and live band. Go and see The Great Gatsby, Cape Town 2022, on stage.