Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: GATSBY, Southwark Playhouse

Linnie Reedman and Joe Evans's musical is an insipid attempt at staging one of the Great American Novels.

Review: GATSBY, Southwark Playhouse

Review: GATSBY, Southwark Playhouse Every once in a while, we fall prey to the glitz and glam of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age. In the smaller space at Southwark Playhouse, it's 1929. Daisy Buchanan - who now wants to be referred to with her maiden name, Fay - was in a sanatorium for seven years before escaping, still seemingly drugged up and confused, to find Jay Gatsby and live their extravagant life together. But Gatsby, of course, was killed in his swimming pool. We know it, everyone else seems to know it too. With the help of speakeasy owner Woolfe, Daisy retraces the events that led up to that fateful day.

The musical should be a sparkling, lavish treat. Sadly, it has the charm of a dead fish. Where Fitzgerald looked behind the polish and shine of the American Dream and presented a cynical view of it, Linnie Reedman and Joe Evans reduce his commentary on class and wealth to a love triangle where Buchanan and Gatsby circle Daisy like stray cats fighting over a scrap of food in a back alley.

The gossip and affairs staged aren't meaty enough to support the 140 minutes (which, by the way, overrun by quite a bit) of banal and nondescript jazz score and lyrics. Against the golden vibe of idealised decadence, we find interesting characters - often side ones - surrounded by others who lack in charisma as much as chemistry with their romantic interests.

Jodie Steele is a mentally troubled Daisy who fidgets with her wedding ring and looks like she's on the brink of losing it, but abandons herself to the popular and trendy former glory of her shallow socialite during the long flashbacks. As her husband, Bradley Clarkson probably gives the best performance of the night along with Freddie Love as Jordan Baker. He's brash and rude as he barks his lines with a crooked smile, man-spreading at any given chance and basking in being the baddie. All the way, Luke Bayer's Nick Carraway acts like a lost, overacting puppy following Daisy around without an inch of emotion.

By the time Gatsby appears, we should revel in the reveal. He's been mentioned from the very start of the show, with Fitzgerald's novel and its iconic cover even making an appearance as some self-referential experiment, but the necessary suspense and curiosity fail to develop. So, when Ross William Wild finally enters stage right, there's no build-up ready to welcome him as the title character.

While he's very good at languidly looking at Daisy, he's not a magnetic presence. He comes off more like a petulant child until he sings (such a gorgeous voice!) - but, even then, the songs don't do Gatsby any justice and there are no sparks between him and the professed love of his life. Jordan and Daisy have more chemistry between them, and Love is fantastic as the amateur golfer and Daisy's best friend.

It's very difficult to translate the aura of The Great Gatsby to any other medium, and this musical misses the mark almost entirely. It looks and sounds cheap, from ill-fitting suits to the tinny reverb of the microphones leading to an insipid attempt. "So we beat on, boats against the current" trying to find a passable adaptation of one of the Great American Novels.

Gatsby runs at Southwark Playhouse until 8 January 2022.

Photo credit: Lisa Crisafulli

Cast Announced For A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM At Shakespeares Globe Photo
Shakespeare's Globe has announced the cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Elle While (The Merry Wives of Windsor, 2019; As You Like It, Hamlet, 2018).

HAMNET To Transfer To The West Ends Garrick Theatre This Autumn Photo
The stage production of Hamnet will transfer direct to London's Garrick Theatre this autumn after selling out ahead of its world premiere at the newly restored Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon this April.  

McIntosh, Hamilton-Amos & Campbell to Star in BIG AUNTY Photo
Midlands-born performers Alexia McIntosh and Kieran Hamilton-Amos will join Belgrade Theatre Creative Director Corey Campbell in BIG AUNTY, directed and devised by Campbell.

Photos: See Adjoa Andoh & More in Rehearsals for RICHARD III Photo
Check out rehearsal photos of Rose Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres' Richard III starring Adjoa Andoh.

From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

Review: CONTEMPT, VAULT FestivalReview: CONTEMPT, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

While the writing is gripping and Gabrielle Nellis-Pain’s performance is excellent, there’s something missing. Catherine’s colleagues are ancient ghosts through the hallowed corridors as she puts on a sleazy, raspy voice to portray them against her well-spoken main character.

March 19, 2023

You are going to die. It’s a certainty, but it’s also the title of the latest play by This is Not Culturally Significant writer Adam Scott-Rowley. Performed entirely naked, You Are Going To Die is a show about everything and nothing. You can read as much or as little as you wish in it. What does it deal with? We’d love to know - we came out of it with more questions than answers. It feels like a social experiment or an impenetrable piece of performance art. It might just be simply throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks.

Review: FREAK OUT!, VAULT FestivalReview: FREAK OUT!, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

Coin Toss Collective are an exceptionally creative young company. Freak Out! highlights a problem that wouldn’t cross the mind of the average British person who lives in the inland. They deliver an amusing, chaotic farewell to East Anglia. Who would’ve thought that a show about coastal erosion would be so cool!

Review: VANILLA, VAULT FestivalReview: VANILLA, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

Laura Mead writes with prudish humour while Keith Swainston directs her, Ned Wakeley (Dan), and Scott Henderson in a production that’s almost as uninteresting as Katie and Dan’s sex life. Mead’s script is as traditional as the missionary position, but wishes to be as funny as an inappropriate joke at a funeral. She gives her character a silver tongue and wit for days, and she’s great at delivering too, but the plot is awkwardly stale in its predictability.

Review: BURNOUT, VAULT FestivalReview: BURNOUT, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

This approach has the story losing focus and looks like a plain attempt at quirkiness. Ultimately, while they mention how difficult it is to have only one hour, the piece comes off as struggling to fill those 60 minutes. All in all, the spirit of Burnout is strong and the creatives behind it have all the right ideas. Perhaps a stronger grasp on a more developed plot might help this naive call to arms.