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Immersive Great Gatsby show introduces ‘panic alarm’ for cast after sexual assaults

Thomas Maller in The Great Gatsby when the immersive show was at Vault Festival, London Thomas Maller in The Great Gatsby when the immersive show was at Vault Festival, London
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The producers of an immersive The Great Gatsby show have ramped-up safeguarding measures after two incidents of sexual assault occurred at its London production.

The show, by immersive theatre company the Guild of Misrule, has been running in Borough in London, since last July.

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.

Two incidents of sexual assault on members of the company by patrons have occurred in the past two weeks, producers have said.

On both occasions the police were called, the company said.

Director Alexander Wright said that both incidents occurred “outside the narrative world” and could not be classed as a “misreading of a narrative invitation”.

He said that safeguarding measures were already in place at the show, however they have been tightened and behavioural guidelines made more explicit.

Torches and whistles were always available to cast in some areas in case of power outages or other emergencies, however an additional alarm system has been implemented, enabling cast and crew to quickly alert front-of-house staff or security.

A “more robust” tiered system of code words has also been introduced to allow quick communication if something occurs, while the audience is now briefed more thoroughly at the start of the show in order to set “clear expectations of what is and is not acceptable”, Wright said.

He said it felt like immersive theatre had prompted a “sea change” in the way audiences are engaging with work, but said this creates additional challenges when thinking about safeguarding.

“We don’t just want to shout into the void. It has to be progressive, it has to be a conversation and something that moves forward. This is why we want to share what we are doing,” he said.

The new safeguarding measures at The Great Gatsby are already in place in the London production and in a new incarnation of the show in Wales, which is co-produced with Theatr Clwyd.

The theatre’s executive director Liam Evans-Ford said: “It is a difficult balance to tread, to make sure we are not blocking people’s want to be involved and for the actors to be open enough to keep that invitation there and yet for everybody to know where those boundaries are.

“Ultimately they are social boundaries anyway, but I don’t think people necessarily realise that these things are even a problem [in immersive theatre].”

It comes weeks after it was revealed that 17 incidents of sexual misconduct towards performers had occurred at the New York production of Punchdrunk’s immersive show Sleep No More.

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