The Great Gatsby in St Andrews: A preview

This famous tale of romance and social criticism, one of the most influential novels of the 20th century comes to the StAge on the 14th and 15th of March.

Photo: Wikimedia

Get ready for drama, decadence, and debauchery as the Mermaids breathe life back into the Jazz Age with their electrifying production of The Great Gatsby. With a stellar cast and crew taking on a critically acclaimed script, Mermaids are set to hit The StAge full-force with all the glitz and glam of the Roaring Twenties.

‘Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . .’

Within a world of reckless extravagance and moral decline, the mysterious Gatsby, a prosperous young man with an impoverished past, is reunited with Daisy, a beautiful debutante who is far above his station. Their poignant love affair is destined for tragedy. For all its wild parties, fast cars, and glittering opulence, the 1920s remain darkly tainted by the corruption of the American dream.

This famous tale of romance and social criticism made for one of the greatest novels of the 20th century and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 2013. The narrative translates effortlessly across both page and screen, and yet there is something additionally special about bringing the exquisite spectacle of The Great Gatsby to the stage that makes this Mermaids production a must-see. Using Simon Levy’s script, which critics have called ‘beautifully crafted’, a ‘masterpiece’ and a ‘classic hit’, Mermaids intend to bring their unique vision to Levy’s play to fully do this story justice.

I met up with first-time director Madison Hauser, who has been a part of over twenty shows in St Andrews, to chat about the show.

The Saint:    What made you decide to direct The Great Gatsby?

Madison Hauser: I love The Great Gatsby. I’d studied the book under a regional expert who taught us all these hidden metaphors, and it gave me a whole different perspective on the book. I gained a greater appreciation for it; there are so many levels to the characters. I had the script, I could bring all of this knowledge, and it’s something I’m so passionate about. To sacrifice all this time and life and sanity — I couldn’t picture doing anything but Gatsby. It’s the only one I’ve felt that passion for. This is my last year at St Andrews and there’s no other theatre community I’ve experienced quite like the one here – we’re allowed to put on so many shows, there’s such unlimited talent, everything we have access to – if I was going to do any sort of show, it would be here.

TS:    How does the script compare to the book and the film?

MH: What’s so amazing about this particular adaptation is that it’s not quite the book and not quite the movie. It has a lot more of the metaphors and symbols and lines from the book than the movie did, but there are also these fantastical, absurdist elements too.

The script is really interesting because it has a more narrative than visual emphasis…it has abstract stage directions and hazy, dreamlike moments, and past those transitions the scenes themselves are very narrative focused. This is where my vision really came from, this abstract almost wistful script – our goal is to really showcase the story itself, to delve deeply into these characters and their personal struggles, more than just the pizazz. To emphasise the jadedness and haunted aspect.

The interesting part of what we’re doing with this production is that the script is memory-based. Nick, the narrator, is looking back at past events from the future. We get snapshots of Nick’s interactions and moments of experience that flow really nicely together. We wanted to run with the idea of him picking his memories apart. The stage is a bit cluttered with objects, and as Nick remembers each piece, he’ll uncover more of his narrative, stage by stage.

It’s this crazy, vibrant spectacle image we’re uncloaking. What this story is ultimately about is that not everything is what it seems. We’re merging these two different visions, the classical realism of the 1920s and the hazy, atmospheric, dreamlike tone of Nick’s memories. It’s a mix of antiquity and modernity — we’ve got 1920s costumes, 1920s jazz with a bit of a spin, electro-swing, whereas the tech is modern. And it’s all ultimately an illusion — we want to remind the audience that this story is biased, because Nick is telling it, and centre on his interpretation.

There’s something about experiencing a story like this one, of lost love, loneliness, Nick’s identity as he realises he’s growing older… There’s something about experiencing it first hand, to see and feel, to see people doing it in real time that is totally different and special.

TS:    Was the process ever challenging?

MH: It’s my favourite thing that I’ve done so far, just because it’s challenged me so much. It’s a cast of twelve and a huge production team, and it’s a position of leadership I’m not quite used to, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it and I’ve worked with incredible people who’ve made it so much easier than I thought it was going to be.

TS:    What’s it been like working with the cast?

MH: They’re the most talented hardworking group of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with — their excitement and the enthusiasm for the show itself, and us all working together, has been so supportive in the best possible way. They’re always there for me and so dedicated and committed and determined to make this the best it can possibly be.

I think this kind of show’s storyline of loneliness and loss can either bond or create distance between people, and we’ve been able to take it lightly and just have fun with it. I really wanted to form a family unit together and that’s exactly what’s happened which is so, so nice. We laugh at every rehearsal. I think the best part of directing has been being able to take on people who so good at what they do, and to see them have a platform to express themselves and be creative.

For a show like The Great Gatsby, it’s necessary to pull out all the stops, and Mermaids are certainly bringing their best. With Charleston moves choreographed by Phoebe Houghton, a performance from The Blue Angels and original jazz numbers recorded by members of JazzWorks, the collaborative force of this production will capture the atmosphere of the vibrant and opulent 1920s with imagination and style. The absolute enthusiasm and passion of the cast and crew proves that this is a story and a creative vision to be excited about, and I can’t wait to see it come to life.

The Great Gatsby is showing on The StAge on the 14th and 15th March 2018.



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