Jay Gatsby has moved into a grand house in Mayfair (56 David Street, just off Oxford Street) from his previous home, the gutted carpet warehouse in Long Lane in South East of London for his latest tryst with the public.
The production team led by Alexander Wright, who adapted and directed this imaginative and complicated immersive production, is to be applauded for its efficient and seamless shepherding and control of the audience.
The audience is encouraged to dress in the costumes of the 1920’s, purchase drinks at the bar, get merry, dance, sing and converse with the actors throughout the whole evening. A large number of them duly oblige and it is as much fun observing some of the outrageous costumes and behaviour of the audience as it is watching the actors performing right next to you.
Whilst it is an unusual experience, the close proximity to and speaking with the actors during the performance means that illusion of theatre is broken. Being up close and personal denies us the mystique and glamour of Gatsby and his society. The make-up, the imperfection of the hair, the crease of the dress, the little stain on the coat, the uneven stubble on the face all contribute to spoiling the illusion of the theatre. But this does not matter because the whole purpose of this immersive production is to give the audience an evening of Fun.
The “theatre” is the various rooms in house, with the main “stage” being the open area of the bar. The other “stages” are Jay Gatsby’s (Oliver Towse) study and bedroom, the garage of George Wilson (Tendai Humphrey Sitima) and the home of Daisy Buchanan (Lucinda Turner).
The main plot of the story is performed in the bar area where the entire audience is periodically gathered. At various times throughout the evening, small groups of the audience are simultaneously moved into the different rooms to be informed (and converse with) of the character’s situation at that point of the story.
I found myself in Gatsby’s study (twice) and the garage. The first time was when Gatsby and Rosy Rosenthal (Charlie Cassen) try to convince us to invest in their projects. The second time was when Gatsby and Nick Carraway (James Lawrence) discuss the options of weaning the blame off Daisy for the accident that killed Myrtle Wilson (Hannah Edwards). In the garage, we witness the break up of George’s and Myrtle’s marriage and Myrtle and Tom Buchanan’s (Prince Plockey) clandestine affair. The main plot of the story, Gatsby’s entrance, Gatsby meeting and falling in love with Daisy, Gatsby’s fight with Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan, Myrtle’s death and Gatsby’s death are all played out in the bar area in front of the entire audience. Jessica Hern, Lizzie Grace and Louis Sparks play Jordan Baker, Lucille and Joey respectively. The cast performed and sang with conviction and humour. Alexander Wright directed expertly and handled the complicated crowd movement efficiently.
It is understandable that in a production with a limited budget, the costumes and settings will not be quite up to scratch, although they are perfectly in period and impressive, complete with the Pink suit for Gatsby. What is surprising is that the Musical Director, Phil Grainger did not catch that the singers of
Barring these little points, the whole clever enterprise is totally fun and enjoyable. This is not recommended for anyone looking to see Scott Fitzgerald’s novel performed on stage. However, for those looking for a fun night out and a little forey into Fitzgerald’s story of The Great Gatsby, they will be rewarded.