A disused pub on Mold’s High Street will be transformed into one of literature’s most-famous party venues as Theatr Clwyd brings F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal jazz-age novel The Great Gatsby to The Dolphin pub next year.
The innovative and immersive show, which will encourage the audience to physically explore Gatsby’s 1920s mansion while dressed for the occasion, was just one of the eye-catching announcements unveiled by the theatre’s artistic director Tamara Harvey at a launch for the Mold-based arts venue’s 2018 spring season.
As previously announced, Theatr Clwyd will also produce the world première of The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, a new musical from Chris Bushush and Matt Winkworth, which will open in the Emlyn Williams Theatre on Thursday, April 26, with previews from Friday, April 20.
It was also confirmed that Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre will collaborate for the first time to co-produce Laura Wade’s new comedy Home, I’m Darling, starring the IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson.
Theatr Clwyd will also collaborate with Southampton Theatre and English Touring Theatre to stage a new production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Chelsea Walker, winner of the Royal Theatrical Support Trust Sir Peter Hall Award.
There will also be more than 30 visiting touring shows including West End hit The Play That Goes Wrong, Out Of Joint’s cult classic Rita, Sue and Bob Too, and the Shakespeare’s Globe production of The Little Match Girl, directed by Emma Rice.
The classical concert season features the finest classical music played by internationally renowned performers. Spring highlights include the Welsh harpist Catrin Finch on Sunday, February 4 and Sinfonia Cymru, the national chamber orchestra of Wales, under the baton of the charismatic Hungarian-born maestro Gabor Tacács-Nagy, on Sunday, March 4.
Family highlights feature Oily Cart’s Hush-a-bye and, for slightly older children, Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf. Scottish Dance Theatre will also present Innocence, a dance experience for ages three upwards.
Dance fans young and old will not want to miss Rambert’s A Lina Curva, a hip-swinging, drum-beating Olivier award-winning party piece, which comes to the Anthony Hopkins Theatre in March.
Comedy fans too are promised a treat when Welsh comedy star Tudur Owen, Mitch Benn and The Chase regular Paul Sinha all play sets in February and March.
“I think the really exciting thing this season is the spread of work that we have,” Tamara proclaimed following the launch.
“We have a classic novel like The Great Gatsby, a new musical in The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, a classic American play in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire which is one of my favourite plays of all time and then we have a brand new play in Home, I’m Darling.
“In any season you hope you will be creating work that will appeal to different people and I think we’ve done that, or at least we’ve staked our claim in attempting it.”
Theatr Clwyd’s pioneering work in the vital area of arts and health has already won recognition with the ‘Arts from the Armchair’ – a theatre-based project for people with early onset memory loss – highlighted at the launch.
“This is a theatre and an arts venue and we mustn’t forget that, but it’s also a space where people can just come and ‘be’,” says Tamara.
“Something we work really hard at is getting across the message that you don’t have to love theatre to come here: you can just come for a coffee or meet friends.
“These buildings are, I think, the churches of our times and they are places where people can come and feel like they have a home from home.”
This winter will also see the return of the ice rink at Theatr Clwyd after the temporary attraction brought about 9,000 people to the venue.
This kind of public engagment is something Tamara is keen to continue.
“The conversation is ongoing in lots of different forms,” she says.
“Whether that’s on Twitter or people responding to our email surveys, we really read these things and we really try to take them on board because we are nothing without our audience and we’d be foolish not to.”
With calls going out for community cast members to take part in the Great Gatsby, I finish by asking Harvey just what we can expect from a play that will take place in an empty pub.
“Immersive theatre isn’t everybody’s cup of tea,” she laughs.
“Some people just want to sit and watch the play and the great thing they’ve done with The Great Gatsby is that you turn up and if you want to just sit at the bar and watch the play unfold in front of you, you can.
“Equally if you want to jump up and follow Gatsby into his wardrobe then you can do that too.
“It’s a really different way of storytelling and like everything at Theatr Clwyd it is always exciting.”