Immersive LDN (venue)
01 December 2019 (released)
03 December 2019
An immersive theatre production of The Wolf of Wall Street was always going to be an ambitious feat, particularly on anything less than a Jordan Belfort-approved budget. However, director Alexander Wright’s production bravely steps up to the challenge, making up for lack of funds with buckets of enthusiasm and commitment from an overall strong lead cast.
The event takes place in a chilly warehouse space typical to the usual immersive theatre experience, though encouragingly for me (perhaps not for the producers) it wasn’t crammed with hundreds of audience members à la Punch Drunk, where you can find yourself staring at the backs’ of dazed audience members instead of actual action. Understandably this Moorgate site is cheap and easy to work with, though I couldn't help thinking how brilliant an actual office space would have been for this show.
It is clear relatively quickly that the director and actors understand the importance of committed, visceral performances to honour characters such as these. It is not an easy feat, particularly as I am sure not many (if any) of the cast are genuinely American, for whom these personalities are more embedded in the cultural psyche. But Oliver Tilney as Jordan Belfort is excellent, coming into his own in the second half, and James Bryant gives a very funny physical turn as Danny Porush. The connections between these two, as well as the other cast members seem strong, and there are a couple of captivating moments.
I found myself in the FBI subplot, where, despite the actor valiantly pressing on in the face of what appeared to be several gaffes (no-one picked up the phone and it appeared we were sitting there filling space for an overly long amount of time), there were obvious plot flaws. We were expected to realise (without being told) that our roles had changed from employees at Stratton Oakmont to FBI employees. Because this was not communicated, I’m pretty sure we did not help the poor actor get through the scene. It was one that seemed to rely a little heavily on audience participation, and without any of us knowing what on earth was going on, it felt somewhat unfair to be chastised for being a “tough crowd”. Audience participation is fantastic when it works, but the scenes need to be strong with or without this. With some relief, and after an uncomfortably lengthy amount of time, we were released back downstairs to the boardroom where the party was happening. Though it didn’t feel as if we’d missed too much other than a very fun-looking dance-off.
At times the physicality of the show felt more promenade than immersive. We were moved from room to room to watch the action, and I did not see any audience member break free and choose which direction to go in (perhaps we were playing it safe on a Sunday night). Despite this clear guidance, the plot was at times vague, with some exposition-heavy scenes not helping. However, the last quarter seemed to turn a corner and the domestic scene between Jordan and Nadine Belfort (covered by Fia Houston Hamilton) was urgent and gripping and it began to feel like the whole thing had a purpose.
To get the best from this wild ride of a production, go with fun friends, go with enthusiasm and stamina, dance to some great old-school music, and in general throw yourself into the party and you will not go home disappointed.
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks