The jazz age. Bootleg liquor, gambling, a party that never ends. This is the experience you are offered at the immersive Great Gatsby. This has now been revamped and moved from it’s original site to a new dedicated space in Mayfair. It suits its new surroundings. Walking past Jaguar showrooms and shops selling perfumes that cost almost as much is a great way to get you into the right frame of mind to lose yourself to the selfish hedonism of Gatsby.
The performance itself is performed mostly around the audience – though there are key interactions – particularly if you are lucky enough to be invited into Gatsby’s study. The audience picked its way through both dedicated rooms and a main hall, where the principle action took place. You will experience the whole storyline – not missing any key plot points – while also having side adventures.
The Great Gatsby as a novel has much to say about the gilded age – both then and the one we are living through now. This is less prominent in the experience. A commercially viable audience doesn’t necessarily want to be reminded that we are all culpable. There is less focus on the truth that everyone in Gatsby – with the possible exception of George Wilson (a stand out performance from Tendai Humphrey Sitma) – are monsters. Vain, selfish people who destroy lives with their carelessness. Perhaps the truth is we envy them that. That’s why we dress like them (and the audience was predominantly dressed up). For one night we get to feed our own monster.
I’ve written before about the issues previous productions have had around audience behaviour. This seems to have been largely ironed out and great care is taken to do so. The only production issue I came across was a somewhat undignified scrum at the bar at the interval. Something which the staff dealt with well and definitely felt like teething problems.
This production is a taste of the luxurious. From the dreaminess of Nick Carraway (James Lawrence) to the scheminess of Myrtle Wilson (Hannah Edwards) the high life is lived and we are invited to take part. While there is less searching of morals of doing so, than present in the novel, this is a glorious piece of escapism. The charm of the piece is mirrored by the not inconsiderable charms of the cast. Go alone, dance, drink, get lost in the gilded age. Just remember that there will be a hangover.