February 22 – March 25
The Great Gatsby
Theatr Clwyd and Guild of Misrule co-production
The Dolphin Hotel, Mold
Well, this is great fun – as long as you check the small print on your life assurance: up and down rickety stairs; in and out of a dilapidated pub’s crumbling rooms. Then hugging the walls during the fight, chase and dancing scenes.
The occasional tot of liquor, gin or whisky, doesn’t half help…or not, come to think.
It’s truly theatre as you could never have imagined it, and certainly wouldn’t like to imagine how much time and energy must have gone into the meticulous planning. You all know the story of course? Unlike me, who has neither read it nor watched the film. I had only the vaguest idea, and probably still missing a bit as the production is a sort of a jigsaw, small groups wending their way via a maze of rooms watching different scenes. But everybody, many of them dressed up to the nines, well, back to the 20s, entered into the spirit of the thing.
A tricky review to write, then; enough to inform and inspire, without too many spoilers. The evening begins with Nick Carraway’s invite to Jay Gatsby’s party. You’re led to a room decked out like a marquee with billowing ceiling and fairy lights, guided by gossipy ‘staff’ who position audience members and point out the characters. Most of the action takes place here, from being regaled with songs and music, to watching a blackjack game. And trying not to be bowled over by a riotous, free-wheeling Charleston.
Still, it is quite baffling at first, and occasionally very noisy with so much going on, there’s a danger of missing things, such as some of the intereaction between Daisy and Gatsby. Once settled in, however, you relish the sense of taking part in the various scenes; for example, sub plot revalations from hapless George and flighty Myrtle Wilson (first class pairing: Matthew Churcher and Bethan Rose Young). Everything is enhanced by the sound effects and the music although sometimes the latter has rather unfortunately followed that favourite ploy of TV shows; 60s/70s funk (possibly) didn’t do the production any favours. And to quibble, or indeed, be ironic, it takes an imaginative leap, even allowing for the fabulous costumes and intriguing staging, to picture yourself in Gatsby’s fabled mansion rather than a run down tavern. This is where not having seen the film probably comes in quite useful.
The cast were absolutely superb, although that doesn’t mean Tom Buchanan (Jake Ferretti) isn’t brutal nor Michael Lambourne’s Carraway somewhat too eager to please. But we also have Zoe Hakin, bright and brittle as Jordan Baker, and Daisy (Amie Burns Walker) is stunningly gorgeous, with Oliver Towse, excellent in balancing the different sides of the enigmatic, fatally flawed Gatsby.
Alas, if a fan of audience participation, you may be stricken afterwards with l’esprit d’escalier; do wish I’d responded to Tom Buchanan with ‘None of your goddamn business’. And if not a fan, you ain’t seen nothing yet, like this, or been involved with, or inveigled into. I speak as somebody who does not care to be coerced or persuaded or told what to do, ever. However, everybody is drawn in, making it an even more amazing experience. After all, who could resist being buttonholed by Daisy? Or Nick Carraway taking your hand, or having Gatsby himself confide in you?
Never mind the snow or vile weather, make sure you beat a path to see this incredible production. And, like me, keep your eye open for anything – anything, from The Guild Of Misrule and The Immersive Ensemble