Theatre review: The Wolf of Wall Street

This show gives immersive theatre a bad name, says John Nathan


Want to meet Jordan Belfort, aka the Wolf of Wall Street? Would you like to rub shoulders with some of the most venal, greedy and amoral characters ever to grace the silver screen? Does the idea appeal to you of immersing yourself in the decadence and hedonism of a man whose idea of fun was inhaling enough drugs to, as he put it, get the whole of Guatemala high? Well you can.

Immersive theatre specialist Andrew Wright has taken over a row of connected town houses in the City of London and in the four floors and, in 25 rooms of the buildings, installed the work and home life of the notorious trader, and the people who populated it.

This show — which follows Wright’s immersive version of The Great Gatsby, located somewhere south of Oxford Street and still running — is based, we are told, more on Belfort’s memoir than the 2013 Scorsese movie that made it famous.

But there is much here that fans of the film will recognise. On the top floor Belfort (Oliver Tilney) and his trophy wife Nadine ( Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty) cavort on their double bed while being showered in banknotes, part of the 22 million dollar ill-gotten gains of an illegal floatation. In the basement, there is Belfort’s right-hand-man Danny Porush (played by Jonah Hill in the movie) urinating into a waste paper bin full of legal papers as the law threatens to bust their operation.. And in between these floors you can witness the FBI investigation closing the net as US Attorney Joel Cohen (Sam Donnelly) grills Belfort’s accomplices.

All this happens with the audience standing in awkwardly close proximity to the action as the cast half ignore and half interact with them. Immersive theatre once felt revolutionary. But you would need to drink much of the content of this show’s well-stocked bars to suppress the artifice generated here.

This is the kind of show that could give immersive theatre a bad name. Wright reckons that audiences are better able to pass judgement n the amorality of Belfort’s destructive and decadent life by being part of it. But on the night I was there, the City workers present seemed to see a kindred spirit in Belfort. To them the show was more like a theme park than a piece of theatre. They are right.

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