One of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous works is coming to life in St Andrews next week. This performance of Simon Levy’s adaptation is being directed by Madison Hauser, known for her work on other productions such as ‘The Bacchae’, ‘And Then There Were None’ and ‘Anything Goes’ to name but a few. Amidst the hustle and bustle of rehearsals and 1920s dance workshops, I caught up with her for some quick-fire questions.
- Why the Great Gatsby? What made you want to put on this production in St Andrews?
If there is one thing anyone knows for certain about me, it’s that I love ‘The Great Gatsby’. I have an entire shrine dedicated to F. Scott Fitzgerald in my flat- posters from the movie and book, quotes, hand-crafted gifts people have made for me for various holidays. So, as for the question of why this show… well, it was really a no-brainer. I knew that if I was going to devote as much time as directing a production of this calibre requires, then it was going to have to be something I’m deeply passionate about. As for putting it on in St. Andrews, this is my last year here before I return to William and Mary as part of the joint degree programme, and likely to be my last opportunity to direct as a student. Directing is one of the most challenging positions you can undertake in theatre (and so far, it’s been my favourite). I knew that pursuing this role was going to help me grow as a person. I wanted the chance to develop something new and exciting that would push creative boundaries- to see this crazy vision play out on the stage, not just in my mind.
- What has been challenging about bringing this story and script to life?
‘The Great Gatsby’ itself is a timeless classic, and with such a well-known story I knew there were going to be certain expectations, which I may not necessarily be able to exceed or even meet. When choosing this script, I had to let that go. I realised that people will have experienced this story and these characters before, through a variety of mediums. Levy’s adaptation is so vastly different from both the original novel and the multiple movie versions.
The script travels through Nick’s mind and memories. I wanted to reflect that with the staging and technology used. I wanted to emphasise the dream-like, illusory, atmospheric tones that stress we have pervaded the past while bringing in elements (i.e. costumes, props) that reiterate the vibrancy and antiquity of the 1920s. I think the real challenge has been finding a balance between these two drastically different takes- the realism and the fantasy.
- How is this production bringing something new to ‘The Great Gatsby’ many of us know and love?
Sophomore year of high school. Honours English. I had a teacher who, all at once, inspired my writing, my love of literature, my pursuits in theatre. He is the true reason that I’m in St. Andrews, that I’ve published a book, and that I know this story as well as I do. He’s the one who first introduced me to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and all the underlying metaphors and symbols that lie within The Great Gatsby that are so often missed. If there is one thing I hope to accomplish with this production, it’s to present Gatsby in a new light: one that highlights the subtle imagery that other interpretations sometimes overlook: the pearls as ‘chains’, the green light as ‘hope’, the pinkie finger on Daisy being broken by Tom- a flaw where no one could see it, the ice pick- an allusion to Gatsby’s ‘shattered’ dreams etc. I hope to achieve the gilded spectacle, the glitz and glamour of the twenties and the ‘jadedness’ beneath it all.
- Have you drawn inspiration from any other art forms or directors whilst putting the show together?
Honestly, I think it’s such a privilege to put on a show that encourages so much creativity. I’ve really tried to allow people the freedom to explore their specific interests and specialities. Gatsby itself provides such an incredible platform for talented voices. I wanted this production to embody not just what Gatsby has meant to me, but to everyone. I draw inspiration from the people I work with every single day, and ultimately what you will see is not just my vision- but an amalgamation of how everyone on our team views this story. You’ll see it in the music, the lights, the costumes, the pieces of furniture as well as the idiosyncrasies and expressions of the characters. You’ll see how we’ve all related to Gatsby, this tale of loneliness and lost love and being out of place, in everything.
- What can be expected of the costumes?
The costumes, designed by the wonderful Anna Tumblety, will radiate 1920s glamour and style. I don’t want to give away too much- but a lot has gone into the planning, from the colour schemes all the way down to the smallest pocket square. I’ll just say you can tell a lot about the characters from the costumes, so keep an eye out for them!
- When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?
Laughing. I think we actually rehearse about 5% of the time and the rest we just spend laughing. That’s why I adore this cast- we have such a good time with each other.
- What has been the best thing about putting this show together so far?
Honestly, 100% the people. This show is such a huge undertaking, and I have been so incredibly lucky to have supportive friends in my life who are willing to help me bring this vision to reality. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them. I have an incredible production team and would also like to thank my cast for taking on these roles so fearlessly. They are embodying my dream, my vision, and every rehearsal with them is an absolute pleasure. To see them grow and change and become these characters has been truly breath-taking. Thank you for making my green light at the end of the dock possible.
- What are you hoping for the audience to take away from this production of the Great Gatsby?
If there is one thing I hope people will take away from this production, it’s the passion that has gone on behind every decision. It’s the hard work, blood, sweat, tears and fights we’ve been through. The long rehearsals, the cups of coffee and the cold mornings. The lasting friendships and memories. At the end of the day, this production has been a success because it has brought us all together. Ultimately, I hope people take away the sense of community, the perseverance, and the love that has been poured into this.
And finally, I’d like you to call someone out by name: who must come and see this production? Sarena Marshall. Happy 21st.
‘The Great Gatsby’ will be performed on The StAge, at 8pm on the 14th and 15th of March. Tickets are £6. I’ll see you there, old sport.
Photography and Poster Credits: Sasha Mann