Tag Archives: Aimee Barrett

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby


Immersive LDN

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Immersive | LDN

Reviewed – 22nd October 2020



“Post lockdown, this show still manages to feel like a party, despite some of our freedoms taken away from us”


A year ago, we were collectively gearing up for what we hoped would be the “Roaring Twenties”; a replica of that momentous decade in history, particularly American history, that was chronicled so beautifully by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Little did we know what a colossal car crash we were heading for just around the corner. The characters portrayed in Fitzgerald’s novel tend to run away from their difficulties. “They were careless people… they smashed up things, and let other people clean up the mess they had made”. Jay Gatsby himself, however, was exempt from this, and his indomitable spirit lives on in “The Great Gatsby”, the immersive theatre show (London’s longest running) staged like a party at Gatsby’s mansion.

“So we beat on, boats against the current…” Those words resonate more powerfully than ever. The flow of events seems to change daily; what may be possible today might not be tomorrow, so the zeitgeist of the American dream follows us, reminding us to seize the day while we can. Post lockdown, this show still manages to feel like a party, despite some of our freedoms taken away from us. But hey, prohibition never stopped people having a good time. We’re not quite there ourselves, but in a neat echo Nick Carraway (James Lawrence) hushes the audience during the second curtain-call, as the clock strikes ten, to announce that “normally we’d be getting out of costume now and join you in the bar. But that’s illegal!”

But let’s start from the top. The first thing you notice is the detail. The venue, once you’ve passed through the temperature checks and security, sweeps you back into the Jazz Age. We are welcomed like old friends; like regulars in a Speakeasy, complicit in some sort of illicit pleasure. It is difficult not to reflect occasionally, however, what a logistical precipice the producers, creatives and cast had to scale to get the show back up and running; but these thoughts are soon dislodged by the sheer energy of the performance. Gatsby’s glamour is delivered with a punch that leaves you reeling to the bar for another cocktail at interval.

There is a common misconception about “The Great Gatsby”, so much so that the word ‘Gatsby’ itself has become synonymous with glitz. Alexander Wright’s direction obviously embraces this but also manages to cast a light onto the personalities that Fitzgerald hints at. As the key scenes are played out before us, we can witness the intimate nuances up close. Not quite as up close as we’d sometimes like. It is still immersive theatre but the interaction, like the audience, is partially veiled. It is also quite hit and miss whether you will be invited into one of the other side rooms. Understandably the promenade aspect of the show has been significantly cut back – one cannot wander around freely as before. The upside is that you don’t miss out on any of the main action.

Nick Carraway, the novels’ narrator, shares this burden with the rest of the ensemble. In fact, we see the story unfold through each character’s eyes, often overlapping at times letting us choose who to follow. And it’s a hard choice as each cast member seduces you with a riveting performance. James Lawrence beautifully takes us on his journey from mild amusement and non-judgemental confusion through to his eventual revulsion. Ivy Corbin is gorgeously watchable as she heaps humour onto the self-centred cynicism of Jordan Baker. Daisy Buchanan is given short shrift by Fitzgerald, but Lucinda Turner dresses her innate hollowness with layers of mystery and vulnerability that give her the allure for you to believe in Gatsby’s dream, while Dean Graham’s unshakeable Tom Buchanan does his best to kill that dream. Meanwhile, on the wrong side of the tracks, other dreams die. Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, is given a brilliant mix of strength and tragic energy by MJ Lee, while her long-suffering husband, George, is brought out of the shadows and given vibrancy and musicality by Lucas Jones.

The revelation is Craig Hamilton’s Gatsby. The tragic hero who pays the price for living too long with a single dream. Hamilton hits the nail on the head, playing him not as the dreamy matinee idol, but as an awkward outsider, socially clumsy, almost on the spectrum, but hugely likeable and charismatic.

What the entire cast do share is their ability to bring out the comedy too. And with Holly Beasley Garrigan’s choreography and Phil Grainger’s sound design and choice of music that give an electric modernity, the evening is a sumptuous tribute to Fitzgerald. In the ‘Roaring Twenties’ the people pursuing the American Dream within his novel were desperate to have fun. Similarly, in our current times, we are just as hungry for it. Gatsby’s mansion in Mayfair is just the place to find it.

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior


The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Immersive | LDN until 31st January 2021


Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Godspell Online in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | August 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020
St Anne Comes Home | ★★★★ | St Paul’s Church Covent Garden | August 2020
A Hero Of Our Time | ★★★★ | Stone Nest | September 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2020
The Off Key | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | October 2020
Buyer and Cellar | ★★★★ | Above the Stag | October 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Review of The Little Match Girl – 3 Stars


The Little Match Girl

Tabard Theatre

Reviewed – 8th December 2017


“the score is filled with wit, melody and emotion”


‘The Little Match Girl’, adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale is an enchanting musical running at the Tabard Theatre over the festive period. First performed forty years ago at the Orange Tree Theatre (under its original title ‘Scraps’), it was later adapted for television in the eighties featuring Twiggy and Roger Daltrey. That it is being revived now with the composer Keith Strachan directing is quite a coup, and testament to the theatre’s (and producer Simon Reilly’s) ever growing reputation for staging quality productions.

Set in a wintry, Victorian London, the ‘Little Match Girl’ of the title is out on the streets selling matches, and is not allowed home with her father until she has sold them all. It is a beautiful yet achingly sad tale, full of contradictions: the story paints a dismal picture of life for the poor in Victorian London, but it also carries a grim hope. We are plunged into this world as soon as we enter the auditorium. Mike Leopold’s steely set (complete with snow) is enhanced by Tom Huxley’s sound design – alternating between a cutting, cold wind and the hubbub of street markets and carol singers.

The real challenge for the writers is that the original story is a very slim one indeed. So fleshing it out into a full length musical is quite a task. Consequently the interest needs to hinge on the characters and the music. This doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, one is transported – the score is filled with wit, melody and emotion and the ensemble acting and singing filled with gusto that sweeps you along.

Recent graduate Emily Cochrane, in the title role, gives a very watchable and convincing performance. Waif like, quirky and vulnerable there are shades of a young Shirley Henderson about her. It is sometimes not easy to tell, though, whether the action is in her head or actually happening. The lines between her dreams and the reality are often blurred. In fact, overall, the production could have benefitted from a clearer distinction between the surrealism and the naturalism inherent in the narrative.

Likewise there could have been more light and shade in the musical arrangements. Though, saying that, there is a lovely simplicity to the songs which, to be fair, is probably the intention. With Musical Director, Richie Hart, almost single-handedly providing the accompaniment, there is a refreshing absence of trying to be clever. The lyrics, too, tell it like it is. The score notably includes the Ivor Novello Award-winning song ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ which went on to become a Christmas No.1 single for Cliff Richard. The musical highlights though are ‘Richman’s Banquet’ sung by Anthony Williamson with a manic dark humour (with a wonderful twist at the end), and Aimee Barrett (who also choreographs) singing the show-stopping ‘An Ordinary Life’.

As an alternative to the traditional Panto on offer, there is enough magic in this show to put you in the festive mood. The message is indeed worthy – that our imagination can give us comfort, solace and reprieve from so many of life’s hardships – but it’s a message told here in an entertaining and life-affirming way; complete with laughter, and maybe the odd tear too.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Alastair Hilton



The Little Match Girl

is at the Tabard Theatre until 31st December 2017



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