The other day a friend of mine invited me to go to the theatre to see The Great Gatsby. What she hadn’t mentioned was that it was an immersive theatre event. She is naturally theatrical and loves any involvement in the theatre, but for me, the idea of going to a play and being dragged into the story and expected to perform was something I would rather run a mile from. But by this point, she had booked the tickets and I thought why not — it might be grim but at least I’d have tried.
When we arrived we were ushered into one room, and the story started. I stood back behind a friend as a buffer to make sure that I could see what was happening but couldn’t be seen so that I would be spared from being dragged onto stage, to be part of the dancing at ‘Gatsby’s big party.’
But as the play continued, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to get out of participating. Each of the characters began to separate the audience and drag us off to different rooms to continue the plot separately within each character’s world and from their perspectives.
My group and I were separated for a lot of the performance spending time with different characters and their storylines. I spent a lot the event as a part of Myrtle Wilson’s story, being asked to help her run away from her husband, playing games to get Tom’s attention and talk about how much she didn’t like Daisy.
Toward the end of the play, building up to the finale, I had been dragged off by Myrtle Wilson with only two other people, as she packed her bags to leave her husband. This felt like a fairly important scene to only be seen by three people, and a weird experience to be pretending to be in the 1920s with so few of us.
The experience was bizarre but sort of fascinating, the actors remained in character, continuing with their story regardless of whether their audience was 30 people or only 1 person. Which meant that by the end of the play everyone’s ideas of the performance was completely different based on where and who they had spent the most time with.
When we came out of the play the thing that interested me most about the whole event wasn’t so much the actual the play, but the fact that we all had such a different experience of the story and how the play had been done. What I loved was how they had told one story but managed to manipulate it to an extent that not one member of the audience came away feeling as though they had seen the same thing.