Having studied The Great Gatsby for the Leaving Cert, I could write about the intricacies of its plot and language until my fingers turned blue with ink as the clock ticked down on the frenzied, nightmarish race that is English Paper Two. But experiencing The Gate Theatre’s immersive adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel animated the story for me in a way I could never have imagined. The Gate has removed its seats, lowered its chandeliers and transformed the entire building into the enigmatic Gatsby mansion where characters roam the dance floor, ready to whisper in your ear at one moment and dance wildly with you the next.
When one receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s infamous parties, the first question is how to attire one’s self – that is to say, how to react to an email confirmation that encourages 1920s style and mandates dancing shoes. The desire to not be over or underdressed was the source of much distress in the preceding days; I settled finally on a taupe dress with black lace. The dance hall was filled with bowties and pearls, feather headbands and pressed suits, swinging beads and leather shoes as everyone embraced the spirit of the night.
The glittering soirée was a night of dancing interspersed with dramatic outbursts; musical interludes; pleasant conversation underlain by malicious glances; and glasses of champagne and whiskey that loosened lips to reveal long-kept secrets. Prepare to be pulled away down narrow hallways of the Gatsby mansion to whiskey bars, libraries, seedy speakeasies and more. I laughed and cheered while learning the Charleston; listened attentively to hushed conversations between lovers; hurriedly prepared for an important afternoon tea visit; and drove to town with Gatsby & co. as the conflict reached its thrilling climax.
Every cast member is pitch perfect. It’s difficult to single any one person out when each gave a passionately dedicated performance in their own way. The cast excelled at responding to the audience whilst bringing their characters to life. It’s no easy task for a team of ten actors to shepherd several hundred audience members to various quarters of the mansion, work within time constraints and still give a wholehearted performance. The coordination of the night is like a dance in its own right, and the cast deserves to be highly praised for pulling it off smoothly.
“The Great Gatsby” is undoubtedly a spectacle not to be missed. Seasoned theatre-goers will relish experiencing The Gate Theatre in an entirely new way and the opportunity to explore its hidden nooks while even the most reluctant plus-one will be charmed by the play’s unconventional style. Don’t let the word “immersive” scare you – whether you become Jay Gatsby’s new “old sport” or simply enjoy watching the events unfold – the night is entirely in your hands. The best way to enjoy this play might be to read the book or watch a film adaptation in advance (or, failing that, there’s always the student-friendly SparkNotes version). Knowing the plot ahead of your visit to the Gatsby mansion will allow you to fully appreciate the richness of the acting and seamless coordination of this spectacle. You’ll be able to maximise your enjoyment of the night as a unique opportunity to dress up in pearls and feathers and sip overpriced alcohol.
Don’t expect a linear plotline. Do let yourself be absorbed into the Roaring Twenties. Let the light bounce from the chandeliers to your champagne glass. Let yourself be pulled onto the dance floor to learn how to dance the Charleston. Let yourself click ‘Add to Basket’ on tickets for this unique and memorable experience.
The Great Gatsby is at the Gate Theatre until 16 September.