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The Last Tycoon review at Above the Arts, London – ‘unconvincing Fitzgerald adaptation’

Lewis Rae, Simon Victor and Hero Douglas in The Last Tycoon at Above the Arts, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

Ruby in the Dust has form with F Scott Fitzgerald, with its musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby to receive its third London run this winter. The less well-known The Last Tycoon, unfinished at Fitzgerald’s death in 1940, turns its attentions to the opposite coast, depicting Hollywood through a less than flattering lens.

Surely the novel can’t be as prosaic as Simon Levy’s adaptation? Filled with dreary debates between men in suits weighing up the conflict between artistic integrity and turning a profit, there’s also an unconvincing romance and some clumsy gangster shenanigans. Hollywood spectacle is certainly a challenge to evoke in such a small venue and it would make sense to emphasise the seediness and shattered dreams. However, Linnie Reedman’s production is neither sparkling nor noir-ish, not helped by some strange lighting.

It isn’t entirely Simon Victor’s fault that workaholic hero Monroe Stahr comes across as bit of a bore. Hero Douglas sings and plays the harp prettily as the studio boss’ precocious daughter Cecilia, but is something of an emotional void as a narrator. EJ Martin brings a welcome touch of elegance to the proceedings as the enigmatic British beauty who reminds Stahr of his late wife, and who manages to imbue the artificial dialogue with some poignancy in her conflicted enjoyment of a brief encounter with no future.

Interspersed with clips of real films of the time to illustrate Stahr’s perfectionism, glimpses of the likes Garbo and Gable only rub in the fact that this show is far more B movie than A-list Hollywood classic.

Verdict
Unconvincing Fitzgerald adaptation lacking in Hollywood allure

Production Information

Production
The Last Tycoon
Venue
Above the Arts
City
London
Starts
August 17, 2016
Ends
September 10, 2016
Press night
August 23, 2016
Authors
F Scott Fitzgerald (novel), Simon Levy (adaptation)
Director
Linnie Reedman
Set
Belle Mundi
Lighting
Dom Warwick
Costume
Belle Mundi
Technical
Jonathan Ajayi (film editing), Thomas Michael Voss (choreographer)
Stage manager
Sandra Szaron
Cast includes
Hero Douglas, Jon House, James Lloyd, Claire-Monique Martin, EJ Martin, Tristan Pegg, Lewis Rae
Producer
Joe Evans, Ruby in the Dust
Running time
1hr 50mins