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This weekend the Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4 has been Robert Forrest’s two part adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby“, which got me thinking about the various adaptations of the work I’ve come across over the years and how they all remind me of different chapters or themes in the original novel.

The 1974 film, starring Robert Redford as Gatsby, for example, reminds me of the way in which Gatsby tries to hang on to this character he’s created for himself [the Oxford man with the medal from Montenegro], someone who thinks they can turn back time to produce what should have happened. More recently, whilst watching the 2013 film version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, the character seems to take on a dual role as a genuinely romantic figure, pining for a lost love, but also someone we can project our prejudices and fears onto, because we don’t really know anything about him [is he a bootlegger, a spy, a murderer or just a bit vulgar?] until he reveals all and the curtain of ignorance is lifted.

The Northern Ballet production of “The Great Gatsby” had an old and a young Gatsby, and an old and young Daisy, so we see the story of Gatsby’s past unfold on the stage before our eyes, parallel to the present.

According to my souvenir programme, Javier Torres played the older Gatsby and his name always stands out for me in subsequent programmes, so his performance must have been quite something, but my memory has failed me regarding the particulars [this is one of those moments in which, if I had a time machine, I would go back and tell myself, “You better write some notes about this now, because you’re going to write a blog in two years time!”]. I would see Mr. Torres later in 2013 as The Ghost of Christmas Present, in the Northern Ballet’s “A Christmas Carol” at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield and as Julius Caesar in “Cleopatra” as the same theatre, but those are different stories all together.

A chap called Matthew Topliss played the young Gatsby and it’s his performance that comes immediately to mind when I think of “The Great Gatsby“. The J. Gatsby who came back from the war with nothing but the khaki uniform he stood up in, was surrounded by shady characters and becomes the front for their criminal activities, initially motivated by near starvation, rather than any grand scheme to win back Daisy’s heart. This is seen in sharp contrast to all the other elements of the production.

It is also worth saying that Isaac Lee-Baker played a very good part as garage owner George Wilson. It was a part very well written and very well performed.