The Great Gatsby is an immersive co-production by Theatr Clwyd and Guild of Misrule co-production and takes place in The Dolphin Inn Hotel in Mold prior to its renovation. We audience members are guests at one of Jay Gatsby’s renowned parties, though we do have to pay for our own drinks of course, at a speakeasy-style bar.
Events start and conclude with the narrator Nick Carraway, a man who believes he is the only truly honest man there is. He is a commanding and charismatic presence played wonderfully by Michael Lambourne.
The audience are encouraged to wear 1920s dress, and after Carraway’s opening lines a party scene begins and the cast members unbeknown to us are all among us. There are raised voices in several different places and at first we’re not sure where we should focus our attention before we settle in to the flow.
I’ve hesitated to write this because the word of mouth reaction to this production is a rave, but I really didn’t enjoy the first half much. We were marched back and forth from the dance room to the bar so many times and when we got there I didn’t find the scenes sufficiently engaging. There were too many times when we were between a wall and a stranger with too little personal space for me to relax.
There were exceptions to this, the cast gave wonderful singing performances and Daisy Buchanan (Amie Burns Walker) and Jordan Baker (Zoe Hakin) successfully involved us all in a group Charleston routine which was a lot of fun.
The second half was a big improvement with some highly-charged performances and more pertinent information being imparted about what was going on. And this time I happened to be front and centre for some pretty impressive drama including a death scene and fight scenes – all happening inches from me.
The actors were truly amazing, and I particularly enjoyed the performances of Zoe Hakin and Amie Burns Walker as Daisy Buchanan, I felt they engaged with the audience throughout and tied everything together. Both had good singing voices too but the stand-out musical talent was Matthew Churcher as George Wilson.
Amie Burns Walker
Michael Lambourne and Zoe Hakin
Where people sit on adaptations varies massively. I personally believe an art form shouldn’t be compared to another and don’t believe that a film isn’t a good film because ‘it’s not like the book’. Equally a play or film should work without requiring prior knowledge of the original text, and I’m not sure this production did that 100 per cent.
I had read The Great Gatsby many years ago and my friend hadn’t and it was unclear until late in the day that Tom is a philanderer or that Myrtle was his mistress making it difficult throughout to know where our loyalties should lie and therefore difficult to invest in the characters.
The way parts of the crowd were peeled off to go to different scenes in other areas seemed to be a little indiscriminate, with some people seeing all areas and others like us solely based in the bar and dance areas. Consequently we witnessed a little too much of the Wilsons arguing, and when I heard raucous laughter from another area I couldn’t help but feel they were having a bit more fun!
Zoe Hakin and Michael Lambourne
Considering the building is a bare-brick shell, the set was excellent, with a beautiful art deco dance floor being a highlight.
The lighting was wonderful with chandeliers injecting some glamour and light outside a window creating the cold light of day creeping in on the characters at their final unravelling very effectively.
I liked the innovation of the concept and overall this was a different and enjoyable experience.
The Great Gatsby runs until March 25.
Images: Sam Taylor