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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
at 5-15 Sun Street

INSIDE THE DECADENCE
By JOHN NATHAN

  Oliver Tilney/ Ph: Matthew Walker, The Standout Company

Immersive theatre specialist Andrew Wright is doing for Jordan Belfort – a.k.a. the Wolf of Wall Street – what he did for Jay Gatsby. That is, he has taken over a big building in central London, allowing his audience to walk among and interact with characters that have previously lived in their collective imagination.

But the term "immersive" no longer has the frisson it once had. Theatre productions use it to distance themselves from old-fashioned conventions, such as a stage for its actors and seats for its audience. But now the idea of walking into a play, instead of sitting down to watch it, is no longer as revolutionary as it once was.

This immersive show is set over the 25 rooms and four floors of a row of connected town houses in the London, smack bang in the capital’s financial district, the equivalent to New York’s Wall Street. The basement is home to a recreation of the boiler-room trading hall where in Martin Scorsese’s famous movie of 2013, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Belfort exhorted his employees to sell worthless shares to people who could ill afford them (or at least to lose money on them). While doing so, Belfort’s people probably sold their souls too for a few extra bucks. 

Above this space are three more levels of rooms and corridors, some with secret passageways into hidden chambers. Venture through one of the bedroom’s wardrobe and you shall find yourself not in Narnia, but a kind of speakeasy gambling den. This is by far the most fun to be had.

However, once you stumble upon a scene from Belfort’s decadent and destructive life you are pretty much locked in to a series of connected tableaux. In one, Belfort (Oliver Tilney) and his trophy wife Nadine (Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty) writhe on their bed while being showered with cash, courtesy of an audience member conscripted for the task. The money, we learn by people talking unnecessarily loudly given their proximity to each other and the audience standing inches away, is the ill-gotten gain from an illegal floatation.

Soon we are ushered by the cast like sheep into other scenes such as the middle of an FBI investigation whose agents are on Belfort’s tail. And oh look! There’s Danny, Belfort’s right-hand man and fellow hedonist, played by Jonah Hill in the movie and here by the similar looking James Bryant, who does a great job recreating Hill’s fleshy hedonism.

The best decision made by Wright is changing the focus from Belfort to Danny, which allows for a different ending from the one that fans of the film will expect. But it can’t compensate for what turns out to be a poor choice of subject following the successful Gatsby show that is still running just south of Oxford Street. Why? Good question. It may have something to do with how Gatsby and Belfort occupy the publics’ imagination.

In Gatsby’s case he continues to live on as a literary figure despite the film versions of him that came later, most recently also starring DiCaprio in the title role. Belfort, on the other hand, is remembered as a cinematic anti-hero despite first appearing to the public in a book. This seems to have had an effect on how Wright’s audience interacts with him and his world. Many of them have come from jobs that qualify them to understand Belfort’s world better than most, and they appear to have brought with them a good deal of admiration for Belfort and not much willingness to judge him. And their effect is to make the whole thing feel more like a theme park than a piece of theatre. And the cast members – some of whom have developed their New York accents to perfection – look like actors acting out their fantasy of being in a Scorsese movie.

 


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