Step into a world of jazz, liquor and excess across three floors of dancing and debauchery.

Warning: some possible spoilers

UPDATE: This is back for 2016! From Dec 15th to Jan 7th the show will be back in a new venue. I would definitely recommend it 🙂 

Read more and buy tickets here

York’s Fleeting Arms has been transformed into a hidden den of jazz, liquor and dance until the end of the year.

“Immersive” theatre is fashionable at the moment but The Great Gatsby by the Guild of Misrule took the concept a step further than anything I’d seen before.

Waiting in the Dark

We arrive at the door, the venue completely transformed from its humble day time quaintness, and we wait outside. I’m glad I donned my 20s frock and feathers as everyone outside looks glamourous and in theme. Feathers, sequins and tassels cover the line.

The doors are opened and we ascend some stairs up onto the roof. A small, dark door where a guy in 20s dress greets us and takes our names. Next, we descend into a bar where everyone is getting their bearings and sampling some of the cocktails on offer. The place has been nicely decorated with 20s posters and signs. I order a “medicinal cocktail” from The Drugstore bar, “10 bucks please” the server says in an impressive American accent.

We drink a fair few of the cocktails on offer whilst we wait for something to happen. It’s my birthday after all, I’m celebrating! Then suddenly I’m hushed as an argument has broken out in the middle of the room. I suddenly realise the play has begun.

Great Gatsby Fleeting Arms York
Image: Lisa Brown

A Fight in a Crowded Bar

At first it’s a little awkward. Some people are sat, some crowded around the edges. We try to clear a space for the performers as they expertly work their way around the room. When the scene ends, they vanish into the crowds and I’m left wondering how the next three hours will play out.

The night quickly picked up as we were let into an adjoining room where a stage was set for a band. More bars plied us with drinks as jazz roared from the speakers. An infamous Gatsby party, beautiful costumes whirled around as the cast broke out into the Charleston and we all tried to follow along.

A lady with a heavy American accent bursts into our group to introduce herself and ask us how we’re enjoying the party. “What’s your name?” she asks brashly, “Victoria” I reply “ahhhh like the queen”.

“We’re in the play” my friend whispers with a small smile and I realise this is one of the actors. She expertly works the group introducing herself to the guests.

An Unexpected Meeting

Four cocktails down and we need to pay a visit to the bathroom. As we navigate the corridors we’re stopped by a good looking guy in a crisp suit. He cooly shakes our hands and begins to talk to us about a financial opportunity. We respond awkwardly and make our excuses, “well I might see you around. Welcome to my home, the name’s J Gatsby”.

“We’ve met Gatsby!” we crow with glee when we return. Theatre isn’t usually isn’t this exciting!

The rest of the night is filled with more of the same hidden titbits and mystery. On exiting the bathrooms we suddenly overhear there’s a “secret meeting” going on in the drawing room upstairs. We take our chance and join the queue assuring the door man as we pass that we are amongst the exclusively invited guests.

A Chance Seized

We bust into the quiet drawing room, somewhat regretting our decision as we see inside, and Gatsby invites us to take a seat and begins to discuss his proposal. The group is small, really small compared to the crowds downstairs, and quiet. It’s a complete change of pace. We listen intently but then quickly take our chance to return to the party downstairs.

Gatsby & Daisy dance York
Image: Lisa Brown

You’re On Your Own

The real beauty of this experience is that no two people there will have had the exact same experience. Whilst we were upstairs listening to Gatsby explain his money making scheme, other people downstairs were probably being treated to something else. As we returned from an intense discussion upstairs, my friends tell me how they’ve seen Daisy in the loo and she’s most upset or how they just spoke with Gatsby and he says he’s going swimming tonight. These different layers of experience carefully mold together to form a unique night of entertainment for each person.

What: The Great Gatsby by the Guild of Misrule

Where: The Fleeting Arms, Gillygate, York

When: Thur 3 Dec – Thur 31 Dec 2015

Tickets: £10 – £15 from York Theatre Royal

Over 18 or 16 with guardian