To me, it seems the core theme of The Great Gatsby is complicity. It asks, relentlessly, how far you would go to get something you want or need, and what you would turn a blind eye to. It’s this subject that makes the story so potent for an immersive experience: Alexander Wright’s production invites theatregoers / Gatsby-party-attendees to become complicit in the events that unfold.
From the moment we reach the stairs up to the venue, we are transported back to the twenties. Lucille (Lizzie Grace) welcomes us, sharing – in character – a few parameters about the evening we’re about to have. It’s an elegant way to deal with the consent / assault issues that have plagued immersive theatre productions in recent years and which producers are now tackling so admirably. We mingle in a Jazz-age bar (designed so charmingly by Casey Jay Andrews), a wide space that will serve as the main stage for the action, taking place all around and amongst us.
I found James Lawrence’s portrayal of Nick Carraway riveting and enchanting from his very first line – indeed, the first line of the book – in which F Scott Fitzgerald so eloquently cautions us to hold off judging others, as they might not have had the advantages from which we’ve benefitted. This is a timely message, and in a room filled with dinner-suited and ball-gowned patrons this questioning of privilege feels very apt.
Just as Lawrence steals every scene in which he appears, Hannah Edwards is spellbinding and haunting in her portrayal of Myrtle Wilson – at once the biggest victim of the piece and the one who has compromised herself the furthest to stay afloat. It’s almost a mercy that these two share so little stage time – or to put it another way, a delight that they complemented so well, always one or the other keeping us transfixed.
The production itself invites us to get involved and at frequent intervals members of the ensemble would lead sections of the audience off into other, cosier areas of the set. I found myself hanging by the corners of the room, in the hope of being taken. Judging by other audience members doing the same, I wasn’t the only one more interested in the sideshows than the main event. While being taught dance steps or participating in a singalong was fun, and made good use of the large amount of space in the main area, it felt like the company was nervous about us missing anything, avoiding this by ‘pressing pause’ on the narrative when some were out of the room.
By contrast, veteran immersive companies such as Punchdrunk deliver a compelling throughline playing out for the majority of the audience. That way, the action ploughs forward and if you’re lucky enough to be led away you do miss things – but the famous one-on-ones are so intimate you can’t help but not mind. Here, the party-goers quickly cottoned on that it was a better bet to chase characters out of the room.
It was, however, all-in-all a spectacular party, just as one might expect to be thrown by the mysterious, elusive Jay Gatsby (Oliver Towse). It’ll be hard to find a more enjoyable night out this side of the twenties.
Review by Ben Ross
Jay Gatsby invites you to one of his infamous parties. Expect to be immersed in a world of red hot jazz, bootleg liquor and pure jazz age self-indulgence.
From the Olivier Award winning producers of The Wolf of Wall Street, London’s longest running immersive theatre production The Great Gatsby transfers to the heart of the West End just in time to take London into the 20s.
Directed by Alexander Wright (The Wolf of Wall Street, Orpheus & Eurydice), The Great Gatsby invites you to Lindy Hop into the life of Jay Gatsby. Don your dancing shoes, dress to the nines and drink in this heart racing adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal tale of the Roaring Twenties.
While the champagne flows and the drama unfolds the man himself will be the perfect host. As invites go, this is the hottest in town – why would you want to be anywhere else?
Anyone under the age of 18 MUST be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18+. The Great Gatsby will challenge 25 so ID may be required or you may be refused entry.
The Great Gatsby
Booking to 31 May 2020
Gatsby’s Mansion, Immersive London, London