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Photograph: Helen Maybanks
Photograph: Helen Maybanks

‘The Great Gatsby’ plans its West End return as early as October

Grab your mask and get to a immersive Jazz Age masquerade ball

Kate Lloyd

How do you bring an immersive West End show back under social-distancing measures? It’s difficult, but the producers of ‘The Great Gatsby’ reckon they’ve cracked it.

Londons longest-running immersive theatre show has announced plans to reopen the show this October, a long time before other productions. The plan is to decrease capacity to just 40 percent, with just 103 people in the theatre for every performance – including cast and crew. This has meant cutting large ensemble set-pieces from the production, including a 250-person mass charleston routine. The producers are also considering having two completely separate casts, so the show can always go on, even if one group suddenly needs to self-isolate.

Meanwhile, the performance will take place across one large space plus smaller break-out rooms that will hold just four people each. Previously, audience members were told to dress for a party, now they’re dressing for a masquerade ball – which requires a mask – allowing the show to ‘double down on PPE’.

The news comes amid news of other theatres putting on productions in creative new ways. Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced a pilot scheme to see how theatre audiences could work after lockdown and The Old Vic has revealed plans for socially distanced performance of ‘Lungs’, with Matt Smith and Claire Foy performing to an empty theatre while it’s live-streamed.

‘The Great Gatsby’ came from a weirdly desperate 1920s social climate created by Prohibition in the States. Now it looks like it might bring some of that intensity back to 2020s lockdown London this autumn.

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