Immersive LDN (venue)
07 November 2019 (released)
Immersive theatre has established itself as uniquely thrilling date night in London for those willing to step out of their seats and into the ‘experience’. They range from intimate immersive dining experiences from ‘Gingerline’ to the vast hinterlands that ‘Secret Cinema’ have been creating for over a decade. Alexander Wright’s immersive adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic Jazz age novel sits somewhere in between with audiences dressed in 1920’s attire welcomed into a grand old building just behind Bond Street Station.
Ushered up the stairs we walk into a vast bar with art deco styling and black drapes hinting at scenes to come. As the room fills with the expectant crowd, many having made the effort with sequins and pearls, the actors start to weave their way through the party. Daisy Buchanan in white satin, played by Lucinda Turner joins us for a chat on our table as we sip an ‘Old Fashioned’ and it’s only when George Wilson (Tendai Humphrey Sitima) starts to play the piano and his wife Myrtle (Hannah Edwards) sings, a hush descends for the first official scene to unfold.
For those not used to immersive theatre, the key is to keep moving; when a scene comes to an end, follow a character you’re interested in as they will take you out of the main space into a new room where a more intimate scene unfolds before everyone is finally brought together for the dramatic denouement. Ultimately, every audience member will have experienced a different version of the play. In some ways ‘The Great Gatsby’ is the perfect choice for this form. Who wouldn’t want to join a glamorous party full of beautiful people? There’s singing, dancing and plenty of champagne. On the other hand, with so many unpredictable factors, it’s not easy to create the extraordinary tone of the original that hints at foreboding even while describing the magical world of youth and success.
Every member of the relatively small cast do an impressive job throughout; switching from moments of intensity to huge performances that have to rise above moving crowds, always ready to respond to the unexpected without losing forward momentum. Turner and Jessica Hurn have a crisp restraint perfectly suited to the period and James Lawrence who plays our narrator Nick Carraway has a magnetic presence, managing to travel from wide-eyed innocence to disgust as the night unfolds. One of the most poignant moments I was grateful to witness was the heart-breaking lament from George – Tendai Humphrey Sitima who gives an extraordinary vocal performance at the piano.
If you’ve never experienced immersive theatre before, The Great Gatsby is a great place to start. There’s no pressure to do anything but watch the performers work their magic with a glass in hand but if you’re feeling more adventurous you can dress up, chat to the characters and dance the Chalston. What more could you want?
Photo credit: Sam Taylor