The Great Gatsby Immersive Theatre
“A unique and brilliant kind of theatre”
I didn’t know a huge amount what to expect from The Great Gatsby Immersive Theatre when I booked it, but I fancied trying something new and different, and it doesn’t get more different than this when it comes to theatre shows currently on in London!
What I really liked before booking, was that on the website it indicated that you could be as immersed as you like, depending on your own choice. It informed us that actors would try to speak to us and try to include us, but there was no pressure to join in. I really liked this, as a show I saw recently was immersive and actors/dancers would grab you and try to dance with you an it was very difficult to decline, making myself and others quite uncomfortable. However, I didn’t find my experience at The Great Gatsby Immersive Theatre to be uncomfortable at all. I was made to feel very at ease and could definitely interact at my own will.
From the word go, all actors were completely in character, speaking with American accents and being very welcoming. When we said we’d come from Trafalgar Square in London, they were shocked that we’d made the journey across the Atlantic for one of Mr. Gatsby’s parties. This was a touch right from the start that I really enjoyed.
We were led into the bar where we could get drinks and relax before the performance started, but it really did start from the very beginning; from actors and audience members alike in 1920 costumes, the bartenders/actors speaking in American accents and the vintage setting, we had already entered Nick Carraway’s world of the telling of Mr Gatsby’s life.
The performance started with Michael Lambourne simply just starting to talk louder than the already hustle and bustle of the room and a spotlight on him to draw the audience’s attention, which I really enjoyed as there was never a break to say the show was going to start, it just did. We were then led into a bigger room where a lot of the rest of the performance took place: Mr Gatsby’s house for a party. We had the chance to get more drinks and were taught the Charleston in a big group in the middle of the main stage. Such great fun and a great way to get everyone in the right mood!
The audience was probably around 100 people, and we started to split off into different groups. My group was first led by Myrtle (played by Hannah Edwards) and Nick Carraway, where we began to get introduced to the different relationships of the main characters. We were interrupted soon by Tom Buchanan (Sam Donnelly), followed by Daisy Eleanor Shaw). Characters went in and out of the room, sometimes interacting with us and sometimes pretending we weren’t there. We were then led back into the main room and joined the other audience members.
The structure of the show was similar to this throughout, whereby we’d get taken off in different directions, before reconvening in the main room to ensure all audience members witnessed important scenes. What I really wondered was what the other groups saw that I didn’t and I wonder how the story pieced together for them.
The attention to detail and excitement of the show was really a highlight for me. When we followed Mr Gatsby and Daisy through Gatbsy’s house, we entered a bedroom, closet, spare room and more, including having to duck under and through things. The classic “shirt” scene from the film was recreated beautifully and you really felt like you were secretly exploring someone’s home. This part of the immersive show really made it an experience for me, and I could feel my eyes and smile both widening at every new room we explored.
My only real issue with the show was that at times I struggled to follow the story. I am not hugely familiar with the story, so I was hoping things would have been better explained – particularly the relationships between the characters at the beginning. I did watch the film the week before seeing the show and I am pleased I did, because I don’t think I’d been able to follow the relationships otherwise. A lot of the time when we were in the main room for important scenes, the bar music was still playing (and at a distracting volume) so I feel I missed a lot of key information. I understand why the music was on – it did give a nice vibe and set the era well – but I wish it was better controlled for important scenes, especially at the start.
However, the real selling point of this show is the immersive nature. From the actors interacting with audience members in getting them to set the scene, play spin the bottle and dancing with them, and exploring the different rooms in Gatsby’s house, to chatting to the characters and being made to feel very welcome, The Great Gatsby Immersive Theatre is a unique and brilliant kind of theatre that I would recommend to all. I would also recommend watching the film first, or at least knowing who is who before it starts if you don’t want spoilers, so you can fully understand and appreciate the story and its clever method of storytelling.
Performance highlights for me were Samuel Hunt as George Wilson, Sam Donnelly as Tom Buchanan, Hannah Edwards as Myrtle and Michael Lambourne as Nick Carraway. Also in the cast were Eleanor Shaw as Daisy, Max Krupski as Mr Gatsby and Lizzie Grace as the understudy for Jordan Baker. The ensemble was made up of James Lawrence and Humphrey Sitima.
The Great Gatsby Immersive Theatre was a really enjoyable thing to do, a very different piece of theatre to anything I have experienced before and I did have a great time, so I truly would recommend it. There were a lot of audience members dressed up, so don’t be afraid to get out you 1920s glad rags and have a great time!
You can buy tickets and find out more information here.