Sunday, June 24, 2012


"Caustic intelligence":
Scott Shepherd, Jim Fletcher and Lucy Taylor in Gatz
Photograph: Tristram Kenton
I got to go hear Gatz yesterday – 2:30 p.m to 10:30 p.m. – read right from the book, The Great Gatsby, and acted by a company from the U.S. called the Electric Elevator Repair Service – sounds like the name of a band, doesn’t it?

Noel Coward Theatre is the venue, a theatre where my knees are squished right up against the seat in front of me.

The actors were fantastic. Four standing ovations – and this is after being there for 8 hours.

People my age are just lucky if they can stand at all after 8 hours in a theatre seat like that, which is reminiscent of the danger inherent of being in a cramped airplane seat for the same amount of time.

But no, the patrons of the theatre could stand ... and clap their hands at the same time – and whistle and shout bravo.  I was among them.

I was wary myself of buying the ticket at the box office at 10 a.m., but the fact that I could get £77 seats for £25 appealed to the sale-seeking side of my personality – and 8 hours meant that would be about $4 an hour. And I had read enough reviews to know that the piece is a highly acclaimed re-working of The Great Gatsby, an off-Broadway smash hit last year. The production is not an adaptation of the book, but a complete reading of the text. It opens in an office, where a man discovers a copy of the novel in a Roladex, takes it out and begins to read it.

One by one, his 12 office work mates assume the parts of the characters in a marathon read-through the book. The reader, the voice of the narrator is Nick. But when he quotes what he says himself, he changes the timbre of his voice. Sometimes he read the voices of other actors, even when they are on stage. So we were hearing him read his own voice, the voice of the narrator, the voices of others, as well as listening to the 12 others take their own parts – mixing it up for me, but keeping me on my toes.

... walking toward Picadilly Underground at night ...
... look for small red circle with white line through it ...
When it was 10:30 pm and the clapping had died down, I made my way to the tube, wondering as I walked, “What is it that made me hesitate when buying the ticket? The long 8 hour show? Going alone? The fact that I like musical theatre more than regular theatre?”

I think what trapped me was a blurb in the Official London Theatre Guide: 18 June to 1 July.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times is quoted as saying this show is "The most remarkable achievement in theatre not only of this year, but also of this decade."  That line is what made me get out there and buy a ticket.

I read The Gatsby years ago.

I saw the movie.

Now I have heard the book read and seen it acted at the same time.

Oh, thank-you sweet Electric Elevator Repair Service.



  1. Bravo Arta!

    Now I must confess to extreme envy! What a great opportunity to see and hear Reader's Theatre! And thanks for your willingness to share it in writing. I now know why it was on the Novel Course that I passed but didn't fully appreciate!
    Thank you! Thank you! Arta!

    1. Hi back, Kelvin,

      Re Gatz, I am have made it sound like it was a reader's theatre, but in fact, after the first few paragraphs, the book rapidly became a play and though the protagonist was holding the book in his hands when he read, his eyes rarely were on the text, nor did the pages turn. He must have had it memorized, since he could read in the dark, in the twilight, while running along the back of a couch or when locked in an embrace, as the photo shows.

      I am not used to this kind of marathon -- not even when I saw both parts of Angels in America, for those showings were separated by a day. And even the 5 hour opera was a marathon, but not of this length.

      I was also interested in the character of the audience -- so many young people. I am used to an audience of older people.