The Guild of Misrule’s immersive version of The Great Gatsby is currently the longest-running immersive theatre show in the UK. Previously playing at the Vaults and the Colab Factory in Borough (a venue that regularly houses interesting immersive theatre), it has now been upgraded to ‘Gatsby’s Mansion’ at a new immersive venue in Mayfair.
The sense of grandeur on arrival has been upped, though the effect is slightly marred by all the queuing – there’s a bag check, then a ticket check, and then a wait to be informed of the (excellently done) rules regarding consent. Once inside, there’s another long queue for the cloakroom – and a fee. If dressing up is encouraged, as it is here, it would be refreshing to see that supported with an efficient, free cloakroom.
However, once past all this, the shepherding of the audience within the show is slickly handled. The action is focused on the glamorous main hall, but the whole set is a joy to explore as characters take groups off into more intimate rooms. There’s a much more convincing sense of luxury and decadence, the party atmosphere is more convincing, and the tragedy more moving.
It is, unsurprisingly, not a show for Gatsby purists, but the balance it strikes between loyalty to its source text and serving its format and audience is well pitched. There’s a higher laugh count and more answers offered than there are in the novel, but it honours the story’s melancholy soul, the finale is genuinely moving.
Casey Jay Andrews’ set design is full of character, whimsy, and detail, from Gatsby’s luxury library to the Wilsons’ dreary living room and Daisy’s dressing room – which is particularly lovely. Andrews’ design is supported by strong lighting design from Rachel Sampley, and a mix of live and pre-recorded music overseen by Phil Grainger.
The cast is without a weak link and deserves credit for keeping the evening fun and fluid. Jay Gatsby is a character that requires superhuman levels of charisma, and Oliver Towse does an admirable job in the role. James Lawrence’s Nick Carraway is perhaps the greatest deviation from Fitzgerald’s original, required to sacrifice a level of mystery to serve as the de facto emcee of the night, but he plays it with a level of charm and wit to which only the most fervent of purists will object.
The real stars of the show are the women. Lucinda Turner gives Daisy’s flightiness a real warmth and likeability, Hannah Edwards lends Myrtle a melancholy intelligence that’s hard to resist, and Jessica Hern is joyous as Jordan Baker. Hern is adept at quick-witted improvisation and sarcastic asides, as well as Baker’s underlying vulnerability.
The show itself is still fundamentally the same, but the changes to the details really make a difference. The new set is beautiful, and the updates and tweaks that have been made to the text are small but clever. This revamped version feels fresh, fun, and deserving of its longevity on the London immersive scene.