Alexander Wright is the creator and director of The Great Gatsby, which is currently wowing audiences in its brand-new West End venue IMMERSIVE | LDN, continuing its record as the UK’s longest running immersive production.
Alexander Wright is also behind A Christmas Carol – The Immersive Dining Experience and The Wolf of Wall Street, both currently running in London.
The Great Gatsby has returned to London, what can you tell us about the show?
The Great Gatsby is a narrative led, immersive production – all the audience are invited to one of Jay Gatsby’s infamous parties at the heart of the roaring jazz age. This production brings F Scott Fitzgerald’s glittering and heartbreaking world to life across myriad rooms, bars, dance halls and boudoirs, offering a unique experience for every audience member.
What are you most excited about seeing it return?
We first brought The Great Gatsby to London as part of Vault Festival in 2016. We were amazed that the 6 week run sold out before we opened. We never imagined, years later, we’d be opening the doors to Gatsby’s Mansion – a custom designed world to house our story in the middle of Mayfair. We can’t wait to invite a whole new host of audience across the threshold of our jazz age home.
What are the challenges in creating such an immersive piece of theatre?
We are obsessed with story. We aren’t here to just create an experience or an adventure, we want to tell one of the most remarkable stories of the 20th Century and put an audience in to the very heart of it. The show runs across lots of different spaces, with multiple narratives running simultaneously. No content ever repeats, so it’s a real joy to figure out how to tell a fulfilling story for every audience member through every route in the show.
You’re also behind the immersive Wolf of Wall Street and A Christmas Carol, where does your passion for immersive theatre come from?
I started making immersive work as part of Belt Up Theatre – a company me and three friends started at university. We weren’t going to watch many shows that excited us, we were bored of sitting in the dark and being ignored. So, we started to tear up the rule books that we had learnt over the years and it felt really exciting. Then we started to see companies like Shunt and like Punchdrunk who were inviting their audiences in to pretty wild worlds. All of us have always been suckers for story, and to find a way to put an audience in the middle of that story feels so much more exciting that asking an audience to sit in the dark.
Are there immersive elements that are shared by all three shows, or do you need to think very carefully about what works for each one?
The constants across all those shows is people – about thinking how we create a shared experience for an audience across an evening, about how we invite them in to something which allows them to leave a little changed, about how we build a temporary community for an evening. Sometimes that’s eating together, sometimes that drinking and dancing together. But the stories we chose to tell are about people making decisions – be they good or bad, generous or selfish – so we must ask the audience to be a part of making those decisions too.
What do you need to take in to consideration when choosing the venues for these pieces?
There are some really practical decisions, of course – size, location, what the state of the building is like. But then there’s some really exciting things too – key features, quirks, the spirit of the place, the detail. We always have to think about how an audience can travel around the building too – what the routes between spaces are, how many staircases, where the best places for different moments to take place are.
What do you think audiences get from immersive theatre they don’t get from a traditional theatre?
Immersive theatre really harnesses the live experience in a way that other media can’t. You can’t run around a movie, or interact with the characters in a Netflix series. Equally, in traditional theatre, each audience member will get the same experience, the same lens on a story, whereas in immersive work we don’t need that to be the case – we can have loads of different narratives or versions of narratives playing out across a building. If you come as a group of mates you can all have a wildly different experience and compare notes in the bar at the end.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see The Great Gatsby, or any of your immersive pieces?
Come, be curious, say yes to invitations and allow yourself to step in to another world. Also, if you’re worried about interactive theatre, then it’s fine too. We make sure everything is done by invitation – if you accept the invitation, that’s great, but if you don’t then that’s okay too. We try to make show which everyone can enjoy, from the most active curious audience, to the people who are quite happy to sit at a cocktail bar and watch the action play out.
Main Image Credit: Alexander Wright by Charlotte Graham