In the long and varied conversations about the Gate Theatre during the passing of the ancien regime and the taking of the reins by Selina Cartmell, the very nature of the theatre itself — an elegant, plush sort of place — was given as one explanation for its programming policy of largely classic, literary theatre.
The symbolism, then, of a first production from Cartmell that rips up the theatre space, taking out the seats and the stage, is obvious. In her hands, this theatre better be ready for anything, and any sort of production.
Alexander Wright’s production makes Nick Carraways of all of us. We are the guests at Gatsby’s party, where it seems everyone knows a little more about the host than we do. The theatre, in Ciaran Bagnall’s classy design, becomes Gatsby’s West Egg mansion; the main auditorium, a ballroom and bar, serving cocktails to guests encouraged to dress the part. This is where the main action takes place, but at any moment in this delightful, immersive production, you are liable to be ushered aside by a character, major or minor, for a more intimate scene. While Wright’s production cleaves to the book’s jazz age setting, he certainly channels that paranoia of the social media age — FOMO, the fear of missing out. No-one sees everything here. While that serves to defuse the drive towards inevitable tragedy, it makes for a production that lives in moments of interaction and improvisation.
Marty Rea excels as Carraway, while Mark Huberman’s Tom Buchanan is a hefty, boorish presence. The contrast with Paul Mescal’s Gatsby, whose facade seems ready to crumple at any moment, is effective. Elsewhere, a host of Gate debutants fill the roles: Ray Scannell, Aoibheann McCann, Ger Kelly, Kate Gilmore and Charlene McKenna. It all adds to the revitalising effect, one that it is to be hoped will rub off on audiences too, and help introduce a new generation to this venerable theatre.
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