Last December, a former pub on Gillygate in York (dubbed the Fleeting Arms) was transformed into a smoky speakeasy in 1920s America to tell the story of the great Gatsby. Surely you’ve heard of him? He has lots of money and a big house which is always full of people, but the man himself is an enigma and people even say he once killed a man…
This was an immersive theatre experience where audience members were called upon to help move furniture, come upstairs to see domestic incidents happening in small rooms or gather round and listen to Nick Caraway or Gatsby himself. The hearsay element was particularly striking, as the layout meant that no-one could see everything and therefore we had to listen to gossip from others to piece together the story in the same way people do at parties. Appropriate enough for a man famous for throwing grand parties!
The book itself is short (just 60,000 words) but beautifully conjures up a world of poetry and despair where conspicuous consumption was the name of the game, without seeming to make the American dream satisfy any of those trying to fulfil it. Gatsby’s parties were a way of reconnecting with his lost love Daisy, now married to the philandering Tom Buchanan. Can Gatsby win her back? And can he really be all that he seems, or is it just carefully curated hearsay? I suggest reading it to find out…
- How The Fleeting Arms Came To Be (The City Talking)
- The Guardian’s review of the Great Gatsby (chosen as one of their 100 Best Novels in English)
- On Stage season – A series of book reviews inspired by the theatre
- Around the World in 80 Books – This American classic is one of the books I’ve chosen for US and Canada, as part of my challenge to read 80 books this year from across the globe. What else should I read?