Performance review: Gatsby at the Green Light, The Studio, Sydney Opera House

Craig Ilott and Stuart Couzens have adapted 'The Great Gatsby' into an exhilarating performance set in a 1920s bar.  
A male aerialist has suspended under a white spotlight.

After the success of L’Hôtel last year, creators Craig Ilott and Stuart Couzens have turned their focus to adapting the classic novel The Great Gatsby into this exhilarating, sensual evening of aerial wizardry, vaudeville and dance set in a 1920s bar.  

As good their last offering was, Gatsby at the Green Light succeeds in bettering it. The production has a more cohesive journey, perhaps as it is inspired and anchored by such an iconic novel. Each performance vignette is, as expected, quite extraordinary in the physical virtuosity and grace on display. But more present in this version is the troupe of seven energetic dancers known as The Service Ensemble who, after giving you a drink, then astound you with their crisp, well-drilled routines woven through both the stage area and the cabaret-style seating. The high energy choreography from Lucas Newland, assisted by Cassie Bartho, is delivered with wonderful style, humour and commitment by the dancers.

Reflecting the excesses of the novel’s huge party scenes, we are invited to a glamorous celebration beginning with Bayley Graham’s lighting-fast tap routine and soaring into Oscar Kaufman’s sensuous peeling upon a hatstand – whimsical and wonderful. The aerial virtuosity continues with the beautiful Elka Uhd and sinuous Miranda Menzies, culminating in the extraordinary flexibility and athleticism of Beau Sargeant, all performing stupendous routines. Expect to be holding your breath at regular intervals.

Zac Smith and Jemma Crump are particularly touching in a beautifully lyrical and romantic duo routine that was particularly evocative of the more wistful and yearning elements of the novel. Betty Bombshell gets flaming hot in all the right ways and Florian Brooks lights up the stage quite literally with his astounding display of manual dexterity. He is charming and mischievous and riveting to watch. All this is accented with the smoky vocals of Odette. Collectively, the performers are beautiful humans, with amazing skills and wonderful humour – all seductively and lushly costumed by Mason Browne and Rose Jurd.

Read: Book review: The Things We Live With, Gemma Nisbet

While each of the vignettes that make up the performance are exceptionally executed, it is the overarching experience of the work – shaped by director Craig Ilott and his creative team – that is its most satisfying aspect. The audience is transported to another world and immersed in the energy and yearning of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. And while audiences are invited to engage with the performers, it never becomes threatening or demands participation. You are simply welcomed, and the confident style embraces you completely. This is a classy and sophisticated night out and a surprisingly good evocation of the original work’s intent.

Gatsby at the Green Light is proving popular and the season has been extended till March. It’s perfect holiday fare – or alternatively a wonderful way to make you forget the impending return to reality!  

Gatsby at the Green Light
Director: Craig Ilott,
Music Director: Kim Moyes
Lighting Designer: Matt Marshall,
Choreographer: Lucas Newland
Assistant Choreographer: Cassie Bartho
Costume Design: Mason Browne and Rose Jurd
Set Design: Alfred Renier Jansen van Vuuren and Stuart Couzens

Cast: Bayley Graham, Beau Sargent, Bettie Bombshell, Elke Uhd, Florian Brooks, Jemma Crump, Miranda Menzies, Odette, Oscar Kaufmann, and Zac Smith and Jemma Crump
Service Ensemble: Clayton Church, Erin Gaw, Jaimie Nirvana, Maddi Xuereb, Tiana Vassallo, Thomas Young, Willa Bell Klem

The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Now showing until 24 March 2024
Tickets: $59.90 – $189.90 (some tickets include a food and beverage package)

Dennis Clements is a NIDA Acting graduate and has a BA focused on Literature, Theatre and Journalism. He won the Theatre prize in his graduation year from Curtin University in WA. He has extensive leading role performance credits in both professional and community based companies, and has directed numerous productions for Bankstown Theatre Company and Ashfield Musical society. He is a registered Marriage Celebrant if you want to get hitched, and has also reviewed for Australian Stage online theatre magazine for several years.