GATZ | Elevator Repair ServicePhoto – Mark Barton

I wish I could report that like so many others I was riveted by this much anticipated production. Gatz simply wore me out. According to director John Collins his decision to present the novel in its entirety, rather than adapt the work into a play, was based upon the “lyricism and economy of Fitzgerald’s language”. However the device of the narrator attributing the author of each statement by the various actors as in "he said" or “she said” was so unusual as to be distracting.

In what must be the longest set up in theatre history (2 hours) we enter a grungy outdated office. Here the employees come and go, mime and mutter to each other, establishing their characters in the hierarchy of mundane workplace life.

A worker, Nick (Scott Shepherd), arrives one morning to find his elderly computer isn’t working. He does all the things people do when this happens; turning it on and off and, re-boots to no avail. Not particularly distressed, he opens his Rolodex and removes the well-used paperback he keeps hidden and begins to read aloud. Gradually the fellow workers assume parts in the narrative of The Great Gatsby.

Privately Nick obsesses about the lavish Gatsby mansion. It is only a short distance from his humble abode. There are hordes of glamorous partygoers who are only too keen to partake of the revelries provided by their extraordinarily generous, almost invisible host. To Nick, like the beauteous Daisy, they are so near and yet so unattainably far. 

Act/Section 2 takes place at one of Gatsby’s elaborate parties where excess rules and there are lively drunken shenanigans galore. April Matthis displayed perfect comic timing as she mimed incidents during the tipsy proceedings. Pete Simpson as Tom, a lost and disoriented guest ending up in the Gatsby library was equally funny and clever. At a mere 70 minutes the 2nd session slipped by with pace.

The 3rd Set/Section (85 minutes) of the evening returned to the slow speed of the first piece. I cannot fathom why such a brilliant writer’s turn of phrase and witty put downs can be rendered so dull.

I cannot comment on Section 4, as exhaustion overcame my guest and I and we departed at the close of Section 3.

A shame because in my memory of the long-ago read novel this is the conclusion which reveals the self-invention of Gatsby, his relationship with Daisy and the source of his massive wealth.

The Elevator Repair Company was formed in 1991 and work on GATZ began in1999.There have been many cast changes and actor-involved workshops and developments since its inception. The office set by Louisa Thompson was appropriately seedy and simple enough to be transformed by moving some of the props and furniture around. It encompassed the said office, a Manhattan love nest, the ash fields of the outer boroughs and the fabulous Gatsby mansion.

Clever lighting by Mark Barton and sound effects by Ben Williams enhanced the scene changes. A perfect choice of incidental music helped to set the period: post World War 1, “the roaring 20’s.”

Reading past reviews there has been high praise for this internationally travelled show; with adjectives bandied around such as “brilliant”, “breath-taking theatre” and “a tour de force.” Unfortunately I cannot fully agree.

There were some marvellous moments here and there, but they were not enough to elevate this epic to its highly acclaimed status.

Elevator Repair Service presents

Director John Collins

Venue: Octagon Theatre | University of Western Australia
Dates: 1 – 3 March 2018
Tickets: $36 – $175


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