Greeted at the door by a man with an excellent hospitable nature and his 1920’s attire on, in the heart of London, we enter into what feels like some form of speakeasy at the top of this lovely building, where the doors open and you are (nicely) bashed in the face with jazz music and dancing.
Immersive Gatsby is based upon the well known American Novel, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, which you likely know from recent film adaptations, or were subjected to at school. I admit, that I have a love/hate relationship with the novel, mainly with school ruining it. But as adaptions in film and theatre continue, I appreciate it more in older age.
The story is about old lovers who meet in later life. Both changed dramatically, their love is reignited but is doomed by circumstance, by gossip and cheating, by lies and love. And so we see them fall in love but also fight for one another, amongst the many love triangles.
The story of Gatsby is well known for the fact the character of Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties where anyone who is anyone will be. Full of booze, of colours, dancing and care free lifestyles, and this is what we initially get a taste of. The performers do quintessential moves from the 1920’s, in their beautiful and stylish outfits, encouraging us to dance, and at one point, putting us through a dance class. Certainly a good way to have a great night out and feel pleasantly out of your comfort zone.
The joy of Immersive theatre, especially in large venues, is that there are pockets of events happening in different rooms, in little groups, in corners of the room. Depending where you are placed, you may get to chat with Daisy about her love for Jay, or Muriel about her love affair. Not everyone gets to go in another room, or be spoken to and that’s what makes each experience different to the last. This is what makes you want to go again; to fill your FOMO needs.
However, with this, it can also feel a little frustrating. The placements of the rooms are almost in each corner and until you realise this, it’s entirely possible you won’t be lucky enough to be whisked away in the group. It’s impossible to be sure everyone out of potentially 150 people in a room has had their turn to see the new spaces. And so we unfortunately left with only seeing the main area and 1 extra room. I wouldn’t say we felt cheated but it certainly wetted our curiosity appetite and left us a little deflated with the knowledge there were scenes and rooms we never saw.
I was lucky enough to be taken away on my own with the character Muriel. My social awkwardness did not help here but it was really interesting to go into this quiet room and talk with the character as if we were old friends. A very special part of the evening indeed.
Knowing the story well, it confused me that character’s seemed to be doubling up and being put in parts of the story that they were not in the novel. It is clearly for logistical reasons, and they do well to keep in character and to continue the momentum, so we enjoy this as it is but it conflicts what we know about about the story and somehow undermines some of Fitzgerald’s intentions. Some characters also didn’t come across as they were intended in the novel and again, this is a juxtaposition on the initial story. I couldn’t help but be critical, thinking that that was not how a character was meant to be or how the story goes.
I cannot leave a review without mentioning Gatsby himself: there are moments of the above to help inform the transition of the space and the story but Oliver Towse is the right brooding, distant but hopelessly in love character that Gatsby should be… and clearly his attractive nature, in his well known pink 3 piece, makes us all swoon. As if we are in the room of a Rockstar.
Immersive Gatsby is for sure a brilliant night out; filled with dancing, elation, champagne and a 1920’s Eastenders style vibe with conflict. But for those who know the story well, the need to utilise the space unfortunately sees changes to the novel which makes a stickler a little anxious.