Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary admission to write an open and honest review of IMMERSIVE | LDN’s performance of THE GREAT GATSBY.
Theatre shows provide entertainment – but even more, they offer a sense of escapism. When life feels too hectic and complex global problems seem insurmountable, it’s always nice to jump into an alternate reality by reading a book, watching a film or viewing a performance. THE GREAT GATSBY by IMMERSIVE | LDN takes you one step further, by dropping you into a roaring party of the 1920’s. When you step into the historic venue, it’s clear you’re not in Mayfair, anymore…
IMMERSIVE | LDN
IMMERSIVE | LDN is the London-based venue of IMMERSIVE EVERYWHERE, a company that is “dedicated to developing and staging theatre-led immersive experiences.” The 32,000 square foot building opened to the public in mid-September with a 1920’s themed pop-up bar, The Davies Street Speakeasy, which serves gin and cocktails inspired by the Prohibition Era. The three-floor IMMERSIVE | LDN building in Mayfair will also house cafes, performance areas, workshop spaces to develop new work, escape rooms and private parties.
The Guild of Misrule’s THE GREAT GATSBY immersive show first came to London in 2017 as part of the VAULT Festival, and it became the UK’s longest running immersive production the following year. And although this show continues well into 2020, IMMERSIVE EVERYWHERE producers, Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, are also working on a forthcoming immersive production of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.
“To be able to create such a thrilling immersive theatrical version of [F Scott Fitzgerald’s] story in the centre of one of the world’s theatre capitals is an absolute dream come true. We hope a lot of people will come join us as we see in the 20s.”– Alexander Wright, Director and Adaptor of THE GREAT GATSBY
Diving into The Great Gatsby
Waltzing in off the streets of Mayfair, guests timidly wait for admission to Jay Gatsby’s legendary party – the pretense of the immersive Gatsby show. A performer sets the scene in a small holding area, warmly welcoming immersive theatre newbies and prepping them for the experience. Then guests are left to mill around, dropping items in the complimentary coat check and ordering cocktails, until the performance begins.
Nick Carraway (James Lawrence) cuts through the mingling, speaking with all the wholesomeness of a true Midwesterner as he speaks about the evening’s host, Jay Gatsby (Oliver Towse) – but the party really kicks off when the space is turned into a dance floor. The cast energetically shuffles teaches two simple eight-counts of the Charleston, so everyone can dance in unison. But if you don’t pick it up, you can just jump on the caboose of the winding conga line. (The dance scenes performed by the cast, including a sweet duet between Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan [Lucinda Turner] are choreographed by Holly Beasley Garrigan.)
The first half of the immersive play warmly draws you in, spearheaded by the fabulous Jordan Baker (Jessica Hern). She struts around, de riguer, her drawling voice booming with current gossip and secrets from the past. You can’t help but feel in good company, whether you join her entourage or head to Gatsby’s office to talk business.
It’s intriguing to see the drama unfold from a vantage point that allows you to see multiple characters acting in separate spheres, according to their individual motivations. If you’re prone to FOMO (or ‘fear of missing out’), you may find yourself curiously glancing around as characters usher select audience members through to different spaces. (For example, I was dying to know what Gatsby say to the two blokes behind the bookcase.) However, the story remains cohesive, since everyone is escorted into one main area for scenes that are essential to the play.
Even during the intermission, the actors come and chat to visitors, so you can engage with the characters without stepping into the spotlight to participate during actual scenes. Lucille (Lizzie Grace) came over and crooned about her new kind-of boyfriend, while Myrtle Wilson (Hannah Edwards) asked us to tell her husband that she was clearing cups, rather than downing gin!
The audience becomes embroiled in the tension during the second half of the play. An angry Tom Buchanan (Prince Plockey) badgers guests for information on Gatsby, Myrtle protests you can’t live off of love alone, and even plucky Jordan loses her composure as George Wilson (Tendai Humphrey Sitima) grieves.
As in the story, the rousing good times grind to a screeching halt. And even though the bar re-opens after the show, the play may make you may feel so unscrupulously scummy that you’re ready to duck out of New York City scene, right behind Nick.
Still, the intriguing production is well worth the subsequent come-down. Join for the opulence, stay for the singing and dancing, then hold on for the rest of the dramatic ride.
If You Go to IMMERSIVE | LDN
Dates: The Great Gatsby is currently running at IMMERSIVE | LDN on select dates through 31 May, 2020.
Times: Evening performances begin at 7:30pm, matinées begin at 3:00pm.
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one interval
Price: £29.95 – £39.95
Theatre: IMMERSIVE | LDN
Address: 56 Davies Street
Nearest tube/ train station(s): Bond Street, Oxford Circus
Please check their website for exact dates, times and prices – as well as accessibility information.
All information accurate and up-to-date at time of posting.
Where in the world have you participated in an immersive theatre show? And what did you see? Tell us about it in the comments section below!