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The Great Gatsby

by Emily Healey-Lynham

On a Saturday afternoon my colleague Hannah and I stepped back in time at Gatsby’s Drugstore for an afternoon of decadent partying! Audience members are immersed in the world of The Great Gatsby for a two-hour performance, which includes one-on-one encounters between performers and audience members.

For those unfamiliar with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, the 1974, or 2013 film adaptations, The Great Gatsby is the story of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for a young woman across the bay. Capturing the essence of the novel, this immersive production directed by Alexander Wright transports you back to the 1920s into a whirlwind of decadence, self-indulgence, passion and deceit.

There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book, and over the next couple of hours this is pretty much what happens. Alexander Wright’s production features some scripted set-pieces, though your journey through the narrative is governed largely by chance, this will have subtle consequences for the remainder of the your time with Gatsby and Co.As we enter the first area we are greeted by Nick Carroway (Michael Lambourne) who addresses us all eloquently standing on top of a table, and addresses the crowd: “In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember all the people in this world who haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

A large side door, previously unnoticed, slides open, and a ballroom materialises in the darkness. The journey we took was being in the entourage of Jordan Baker (the professional golf friend of Daisy) wonderfully in character portrayed by Holly Beasley-Garrigan as we went on a mission to set up Daisy and Gatsby.After a lesson in the Charleston and a bourbon or two we followed Jordan as her plans went underway to get daisy to have tea with our illustrious host Gatsby. We helped Daisy choose an outfit and then we were looking forward to a drink in the interval but no! We got sent on a secret mission by the dastardly Tom (Sam Donnelly) to find out how Jay Gatsby makes his money!

Leading man for our performance James Lawrence embodied all the charm, charisma and magnetism one would expect to see from Jay Gatsby and is an exceptionally spontaneous performer, particularly during direct exchanges with ‘his guests’. Exuding ease and confidence, with a touch of disarming vulnerability, he is a compelling yet enigmatic host. We had serious amounts of fun having a private meeting with him trying to interrogate him!Being lead in and out of different rooms and interacting with the different characters meant the evening was so exciting and fun. You never knew what was going to happen next.

Designer Casey Jay Andrews has created an exceptional performance space. No detail has been left unconsidered and the utility of the layout is such that you genuinely feel as though you’re in a private home, overhearing things you shouldn’t through walls that are far too thin.

I would suggest dressing up – it is rare that one gets to do this in the theatre and it adds to the atmosphere – the drinks and dancing are aplenty down at Jay’s – do get yourself involved! If you love the Gatsby story, I truly recommend, and if you don’t it’s time to discover what it’s all about! Expect to be whisked away for private chats or consulted for your opinion; whatever the opportunity, be sure to say yes!

The Great Gatsby can be booked through The Immersive Ensemble online.

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