The Great Gatsby - Immersive theatre done COVID-19 style; with update
Updated: Nov 15
Have you been missing trips to the theatre? I know that I have. One of the joys of living in London is the ease of access to so many theatres large and small, and so many different genres. I normally go to a play at least once a month; sometimes something highbrow, sometimes something silly, and sometimes something that is just joyously fun. The invitation to the 'Hottest Party in Town' from none other than Jay Gatsby, has to fall on the fun side of the spectrum.
We had seen the show last year, when the world was a different place, and no-one had heard of either COVID-19 or tiered social restrictions. With that in mind, we were intrigued to see how the experience had been adapted to make it safe, but still maintain the fun element of the experience which is all about the interaction with the actors.
So what has been put in place?
You can only attend with people you live with/who are in your social bubble
Tickets are scanned from mobile phones
Your temperature is taken at the door
You are shown to a seat. This might be at a table, on stools, on the stairs, on the edge of the stage.
You are required to keep your face mask on during the show. It can be removed when drinking in the interval, but must be put back on if visiting the toilets/moving around.
Staff come to you to take drinks orders, take payment electronically, and the drinks are brought to you.
Plus intensive cleaning. For example, the microphone used on the stage was cleaned in the interval.
How does the immersive part work?
It's not compulsory, but the audience are encouraged to get into the spirt of things, by dressing in Jazz Age clothing. Given we attended the matinee performance, it was lovely to see that around 60% of the audience were wearing 1920s sequins, fringed dresses, long strands of pearls, sharp suits and trilbys. Not all simultaneously!
The show starts with George Wilson (played by Lucas Jones) and Myrtle Wilson (played by MJ Lee) duetting at the piano to 'Let's Fall in Love', and the scene is set. This party is going to be all about love, unrequited love, illicit love, and passion.
Long before we meet our host, we are told about him through the other characters. Jordan (played by Ivy Corbin) the professional golfer, is keen for her socialite friend Daisy (played by Lucinda Turner) to have some fun. It seems that marriage to slightly thuggish Tom (played by Dean Graham) doesn't meet with best friend Jordan's approval. Nick is living next door to Gatsby, poor and slightly in awe of these rich party animals. Gradually we learn that Tom and Myrtle have been having an affair, and Myrtle wants Tom to leave Daisy.
All of the main story-line unfolds in the main party room, but small groups are invited by the actors to side rooms. Here they learn a little more of the side stories, or get to help Daisy chose her dress for the tea-party, or even help Jay with a 'business' meeting.
A couple of the audience help to set the scene for the perfect afternoon tea where Daisy and Jay (perfectly played by Craig Hamilton) get to meet again after years, and re-ignite the passion they once had, which Jay never lost. The play isn't all high drama, this scene is well crafted in traditional slapstick style.
As tensions rise, we get some hints about the source of Jay's wealth, and this is ultimately his downfall. His charisma, money, and wild parties had led to him to appear popular, but when things go wrong he's isolated and alone. This is a tough part to play; the flawed hero, a man who bets everything on love - and loses. I was really impressed with how skillfully it was conveyed by Craig Hamilton. Daisy can seem to be a shallow money-orientated woman, but Lucinda Turner manages to convey the complexity of a woman in that situation in that era; that in the end convention and propriety are the dominant forces. We get a sense that she might have risked it all, until she learns about the source of Jay's wealth. And she simply vanishes from view after the consequences of their drive to town.
Throughout the production, the actors at times sing, play instruments, and dance with huge amounts of energy.
We loved it. It was actually better than the first time around. This time we could really see the actors expressions, have a chat with them when invited to, and we could hear everything perfectly. We got to go to a side room with Nick and Jordan as their romance started to blossom - we weren't invited to do any of the off-stage activities last time.
As far as I could see the only thing that was missing in terms of interaction, was that previously the audience had been taught the Charleston so that we could join in with the dancing.
It was also much nicer being brought our drinks than having to queue at the bar.
So if you are looking for something fun to do with your household/social bubble I couldn't recommend this more highly, why not book your place at the party now "Old Sport"?
Immersive LDN, is situated at 56 Davies Street, W1K 5HR. This is just behind Bond Street tube – the road that runs parallel to South Molton Street.
Tickets can be booked via www.immersivegatsby.com
Leave a little time to get in, have your temperature checked etc. before the performance time.
Disclosure: We were guests of Immersive LDN
The current situation
Following the Government’s announcement on a national lockdown for England and taking into consideration the safety of all staff and cast, the producers of THE GREAT GATSBY will be cancelling performances at IMMERSIVE LDN from Wednesday 4 November until Wednesday 2 December 2020.
The return performance will be Thursday 3 December 2020, and the booking period for the show has been extended through to Sunday 28 February 2021.
Ticket holders for cancelled performances will be contacted asap by Arts Tickets to confirm next steps.
Producers Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook said, “We are proud of everyone who took up that call to arms and everyone who has taken this second lockdown on the chin. Getting our venue reopened was a massive feat, a pathfinding, a learning and a humbling experience. We look forward to welcoming back our patrons into the socially distanced version of the production as soon as we are able, when the R rate is under control and times are a little kinder. We are grateful for the continued support of our co-producers and investors. We also hope for a greater stimulus package and necessary support from DCMS for the sector and those who form some of the 3 million #ExcludedUK. Our heart goes out to other producers, theatre owners, casts and crews during this time. The fightback to the stages is an important cultural moment and we are very proud of everyone who has taken up the call.”