It’s hot in London. Damn hot. I spent the morning oozing around Regent’s Park with Oliah, and then picked Brian up from King’s Cross.
Brian recently extended his Gatsby show until New Year’s Eve, and since I’ve got a guest I thought it only right, on a hot summer evening, that I share this steamy jazz age treat with her. She’s from Portland, Maine. She hasn’t been to an immersive show before, and Gatsby is a fantastic example of an immersive show led by narrative rather than gimmicks. It’s a great one to start with, and you’ve got a reasonably good chance of coming out knowing the story, which is more important than many people that make immersive shows appear to think.
We arrive in the evening at Gatsby’s Drugstore, which – brilliantly – you can find by searching for it in Google maps. For a Sunday evening it’s packed out. Loads of audience members have made an effort. There are plenty more three-pieces than mine on the men. The women have twenties style dresses, and those fascinator things in their hair.
Even before we start there’s a festival air. And the little room we’re in is rammed to the rafters. The bar is doing a roaring trade. It’s hot.
The show rewards repeated watching, which is just as well, since I’ve seen it four times. It’s been built into an old factory near London Bridge. We unloaded a van full of furniture one day some months ago and saw some beautiful transformative work in progress. Having known the place before the show I’m aware they’ve done a great job on it.
There’s one big central hall and then lots of rooms around the edge, where you might find more intimate scenes. There are also chances of a one on one moment with any of the actors, in which case you’ll almost certainly get a good shot of Copperhead gin – it’s on tap. They’ve sponsored the show.
The central hall is pretty big, so it necessitates vocal projection from the cast. It’s pleasant to hive off into little rooms from time to time and catch other aspects of the story, more personal and nuanced than they can easily be in that big space. The actors are all strong and playful, and able to shift gear quickly. Some of my favourite scenes are the little intimate ones. But today I wanted to see how the show played if I stayed loosely central and behaved like an unadventurous or shy audience member. I didn’t mind not getting free gin, as I had to drive home.
They taught me how to Charleston a bit. They sang beautifully to me and one another. There was a lover’s dance up a wall. Four bemused audience members were tasked with creating the perfect tea setting and failed spectacularly. The performers all have enough facility with their material to deftly incorporate and reincorporate the random stuff generated by their audiences, and make it fun and safe for the people they involve. Even just staying in the middle I found I had a varied, smart, touching night at the theatre, and the story was told.
Now it’s running until New Year, there’s plenty of time to see it. I’m not in it, but I feel a connection with it. So many people I love are making it what it is. It’s a show built with community and love, and it comes across brilliantly. And they were all boiled in their costumes and sweating like racehorses at the end of the show, but it didn’t take any of the fun out of it for us. It’s a good shout for an early date, not that I’m a dating expert. But let’s pretend I am.