Style: The Roaring Twenties
Where: Immersive LDN, 56 Davies St, Mayfair, London, W1K 5HR
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
For anyone who has read and studied the book, the immersive Gatsby experience can be a little odd. The production goes heavy on the party elements of the roaring twenties, encouraging the audience to dress up in their finery and dance and drink with (somewhat) abandon. This is why the first half of the show is about twice as long as the second half which focuses on the tragic element of the plot. This is a fun night out wrapped up in a theatre show – and none of F Scott Fitzgerald’s contempt for and judgement of Gatsby and the carelessness of the people he surrounds himself with survives that party atmosphere. How could it? For it to do so would be to judge the people who have chosen to spent their time and money on the production.
I have watched this show develop over the years from it’s infancy to the slick production it is today. So I suspect I have a different take on it than someone coming with fresh eyes might have. Nothing in this current version is wrong, but I have seen a lot of it before – it’s an evolution not a revolution and as such it’s probably time for me to hang up my beaded dress and let a fresh pair of eyes get a take on it next time.
The show is still great fun. This time my group weren’t taken out of the main room at all so we didn’t see any of the side fun, but that too was an interesting perspective and the cast work really hard to make sure there’s always something to be watching. They also dealth well with an increasing drunk and emboldened crowd who had a fair bit to say about both the actions and characters involved.
Music is central to this production. From the fun teaching of some basic Charleston moves (which I was still awful at!) to the closing mournful number, it is music that moves the production along as much as the action. The cast sing beautifully. And the final scene of harmony singing from all corners of the room sends a chill down the spine.
In terms of the story, while the first half is about twice as long as the second, it is mostly establishing the careless and monied world of Gatsby and his friends. It is in the second half where the real drama takes place and while compressed, this is well done and at times truly moving.
I wouldn’t normally review a venue, but the venue is also absolutely inherent to the story. There are a few issues that they still haven’t rectified since the last time I was there. Firstly, the bar is incredibly slow. I was only ordering a Diet Coke and was stood behind someone ordering cocktails. These take ages to make. They ought to simplify the menu or have more pre-made as no one goes to immersive theatre to spend 30 minutes queueing.
It also slightly bothers me that for all the jazz, they haven’t set up the iconic green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. This would be so easy to do and could be such a lovely touch.
My only other (very minor and insignificant) gripe is that the actors playing Gatsby and Nick Carroway look really similar. That’s not their fault and both are excellent in the roles. But they also play very similar and at times I had to struggle to distinguish them. This may have been an artistic choice – it may be a comment on how much they actually want to be each other – but perhaps a slight change of costume would have confused a bear of so little brain as I.
Overall, Great Gatsby is what it wants to be. They are well practised, know their audience and play to their not inconsiderable strengths. It is more a great night out than it is a theatre show. But if you go in there with those expectations, you will not be disappointed.