Gatsby

One might be forgiven for thinking that Sevenoaks teachers Jim Gant and Mark Beverley actually plan and indeed, enjoy, to put together their productions at the very last minute. Over the past two years, the directors have kept their cool in the face of a global pandemic that forced them to rethink their entire concept for the show, organise rehearsals for students at separate times to that they could remain in their year group bubbles, and postpone their dress rehearsal when input couldn’t be heard over Teams. And yet, on Monday 11 October, Gatsby premiered in the Sackville Theatre, as professionally and with as much vigour and originality as any of their previous productions.  

The students, dressed in beautiful 1920s dresses and suits, glided around the stage in a kaleidoscope of colours and fabrics, with a Twenties-inspired set and popular music from the early decades of the 20th century. The cast moved as a professional company; ensemble work was harmonious and captivating, their command of the space and the set equally impressive. While this set was beautifully designed with its fantastic paintwork and professional construction, complete with a wooden version of Gatsby’s yellow Rolls Royce, it also relied on the commitment of the performers to suggest the famous settings; from the garage of Wilson and his wife Myrtle to the library in Gatsby’s mansion, the audience believed in them all.

Ensemble work was coupled with outstanding individual performances, the lead roles of Jay Gatsby (Bella Munday/Tito Adetunji) and Nick Carraway (Madelyn Morris/Louis Dunn) performed with the upmost poise and proficiency. The students imaginatively transformed traditional interpretations, providing the audience with original and rather more thought-provoking versions of these characters. Another masterful casting choice by the duo directors was that of Hebe Marr-Johnson as Jordan, elegant and remarkably convincing with her hypnotic, deep, American drawl. 

The cast alternated throughout the week, the Upper Sixth taking the lead roles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the Lower Sixth moving into the limelight for the remaining performances, ending with a special performance on Saturday, with old Sennockians and parents invited to enjoy a special performance and drinks reception celebrating 40 years of the Sackville Theatre. The production really is an extraordinary accomplishment – even without the knowledge of the obstacles faced by the cast and crew.  

Hanna Jay

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