In 2013 I over immersed myself in ‘The Gatsby’. I read the book, I saw the Baz Lurhman film (in 3D, why?) and I even went to a ballet, the highlight being the baffled audience members who hadn’t immersed themselves as much as I had. I probably overdosed on Gatsby but four years later I was ready to dive in again.
Since its original opening at the Vaults I had heard nothing but good things from The Immersive Collection’s The Great Gatsby, an interactive re-telling of the classic tale. I couldn’t wait to put on my Flapper dress and see it for myself.
The production is an immersive work in two halves. The first half is very much about the exploration. The audience can move across various rooms and follow various characters. Have a crush on the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Oliver Tilney)? Then follow him to his private rooms so you can talk business and drink gin. Drawn to Daisy with the sad eyes (Jessica Guise, on the night I saw it)? Then follow her to find out how she can stop her husband Tom Buchanan's (Tom Maller) philandering or just follow Jordan Baker (Holly Beasley-Garrigan) and Nick Carraway (Daniel Dingsdale) for some dancing, laughing and matchmaking.
The second half is a lot darker, the source material moves away from the parties at this stage and it feels more like a traditional production, where you witness the events unfolding rather than getting too involved. Depending on where you find yourself you will hear some arguments from the rooms you explored earlier but it is a production that suits all tastes. If you like your traditional theatre over interaction then the option to stay on the main stage and drink cocktails is there but the highlight for me was exploring this space, being handed or given trinkets which I then had to pass on to other characters.
The key to this production is the performances. Everyone has their vision of the characters from film or even imagination when reading the novel. I didn’t feel that anyone was miscast. Characters descend into darkness and feel completely unrecognisable from the fun times they had in the first half. A trait I found frustrating in the book (“They are all awful”) but I found myself understanding Gatsby’s motives more because of Oliver Tilney’s moving performance, and having sympathy for all the characters despite how selfishly they behave. My only regret was that I was limited when it came to the rooms I could attend, but it is a great excuse to go back! This has the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ element immersive theatre needs if it is going to work but it also has elements where you can just observe.
One final warning; better learn some 1920s dance moves if you don’t want to look as foolish as I did on the dance floor.
The Great Gatsby has just announced it has extended its run until 1 April 2018 so book your tickets now!
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