‘The Great Gatsby’ review – Immersive experience turns theatre into a roaring social event

Opening up the new West End venue Immersive LDN, The Great Gatsby certainly brings the party, but not quite the theatre – ★★★

Hartshorn-Hook Productions’ immersive adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic has all the hallmarks of my typical party experience: feeling a tad underdressed whilst sipping sharp lemonade and avoiding being the centre of attention.

While more encouraged than mandatory, most attendees at the press night for The Great Gatsby – now in a promising new West End venue near Bond Street station – were dressed for the occasion. With a functioning bar integrated as part of the set, it’s clear that the evening leans more towards themed social gatherings than a night of engaging and subversive theatre.

Though that is not to say that the cast do not put in any effort to include audience members in the action, but when they mumble over the several of the play’s many dramatic moments – despite a chirpy warning before the show from the amiable Lucille (Lizzie Grace) – it’s clear what atmosphere this production is trying to create.

For what its worth, the play certainly has heart.Holly Beasley Garrigan’s choreography is rousing and inclusive. Amongst the cast, Tendai Humphrey Stima displays incredible talent as a singing, dancing, piano-playing George Wilson, while Prince Plockey acts with conviction as the sceptical and authoritative Tom. Our awestruck narrator Nick Carraway, played by James Lawrence, breaks the fourth wall at Gatsby’s party like a jazz-age Ryan Reynolds.

Granted, they were the three characters with whom I had in-depth, personal conversations during the show, but when actors have to project over the shuffling and chatting of audience members and booming music (some of which felt out of place in 1920’s America) such interactions serve as useful anchor points to ground ourselves in the work.

Yet, these connections only extend to a handful of characters. When audiences are split, we’re party to certain conversations, secrets and sub-plots and not others. People unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s classic (myself included, to my shame) may well feel like they’ve missed out on important information, or the chance to find out more about every character. It becomes apparent that while Gatsby and his company connect with us, but we don’t connect much with them.

In turn, viewers searching for a different theatrical experience may feel out of place in the moving crowds, but for those looking for a chance to dress up and party in a unique setting, The Great Gatsby offers a golden opportunity.

The Great Gatsby is now playing at Immersive LDN until 31 May 2020.

Production Images: Helen Maybanks.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch The Great Gatsby for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.

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