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The best immersive theatre makes its audience feel like they are being let in on a secret. At Alexander Wright’s immersive production The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the Jordan Belfort memoir made infamous by Martin Scorsese’s adrenaline-fuelled film, too many of us are squeezed into flimsily clad, shoddily decorated, too-tight spaces for any of the feral and fraudulent action to feel intimate.
It’s our first day at stockbrokers Stratton Oakmont, where the drug-guzzling criminal multimillionaire Belfort (a writhing Oliver Tilney) is promising to make us rich. Our group is taken to Geneva to set up a new bank. Along the way, some are arrested for money laundering, others head off with the drug dealer and a select few peel off for a promised wild night of sex.
All movement is strictly controlled as we’re ushered from one bland corporate room to another. In the rare moments we are allowed to nose around, details are scarce; the admin hasn’t been done to make us believe in the lie. Our mission is quickly buried under a flurry of $100 bills, and for much of the night, we float alongside the action rather than within it. When we’re later let into the Belfort family home to watch how drugs destroy a life, our presence makes little sense. Are we no longer going to Switzerland? Is it still our first day? If the plan was for us to quietly hover, they could at least have given us a seat.
The show makes us complicit in Befort’s wrongdoings. “Too fucking easy, right?” Belfort chants after being cleared of a case of sexual assault. But what makes the night most uncomfortable is when over-zealous audience members use the characters’ vile behaviour as an excuse to echo it themselves. At one point James Byrant, playing Belfort’s right-hand man, shuts down a man who throws a racist insult on stage: leave it to the professionals, Byrant warns. But they can’t monitor everything, and other instances occur that don’t get taken care of.
The actors all do a stellar job plate-spinning, and it’s fun to dress up and be bathed in dollar bills, but as a whole this production is a timid sheep in the sharp-cut suit of a wolf.
Source: The Guardian
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