Gatz a theatrical marathon worth running at Perth Festival

A scene from Gatz.
A scene from Gatz.

IF you have every wanted to run a theatre marathon, then Perth Festival production Gatz at the Octagon Theatre is your opportunity.

Totalling a slightly daunting eight hours and 15 minutes (including two 15-minute intervals and a 90-minute dinner break), the theatrical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an experience never to be forgotten.

After reading the book, seeing Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation and watching WA Ballet bring the story to life, this reviewer was eager to see what New York’s Elevator Repair Service theatre company had achieved with the script.

The answer was a theatrical wonder, which left you marvelling at the sheer storytelling inventiveness of director John Collins.

Guided by Fitzgerald’s first-person narration by Nick Carraway in the book, he has kept the play a word-for-word reading of the entire 1925 classic American novel.

The story follows the lives of the main characters of Nick, Tom, Daisy, Jordan and Jay Gatsby on Long Island during the hot summer of 1922.

However, the twist of this production is that the storyline is set in a nondescript 1980’s office.

Actor Scott Shepherd arrives to work one morning and when his computer won’t turn on (in a scene we can all relate to), he picks up a copy of The Great Gatsby from his desk.

He starts reading it aloud and does not stop until all nine chapters are complete (apart from the scheduled breaks).

However, this is no audio book experience.

Shepherd takes on the role of Nick as narrator and, as other co-workers wander in and out of the space performing everyday office duties, there becomes a playful correlation between their actions and those in the novel.

As Shepherd continues to narrate, Fitzgerald’s prose also become the dialogue for the remaining 12 actors, delivered with subtle humour, great skill and with a sound designer at an office desk on stage.

It brings a truly inspired form of new life to the literary masterpiece that delves into the American dream.

Gatz premiered in Brussels in 2006, was performed in 25 cities across the US until it premiered in New York in 2010, followed by a season on London’s West End, and at Sydney Opera House.

The epic production runs like a well-oiled machine and is certainly a test of endurance for the cast and audience, but one that is certainly very much worth it “old sport”.

Gatz is at Octagon Theatre until March 3.