sun 15/12/2019

The Wolf of Wall Street, 5-15 Sun Street review - energetic but to what end? | reviews, news & interviews

The Wolf of Wall Street, 5-15 Sun Street review - energetic but to what end?

The Wolf of Wall Street, 5-15 Sun Street review - energetic but to what end?

Jordan Belfort memoirs translate unpleasantly, even unnecessarily, to the stage

Marriage story: Jordan and Nadine Belfort in 'The Wolf of Wall Street'Bill Knight for theartsdesk

Of all the groups you probably wouldn’t want to be part of, surely the hyper-adrenalised, hardscrabble populace of The Wolf of Wall Street, the Jordan Belfort memoir made into an amphetamine rush of a film by Martin Scorsese, must rank near the very top. And yet here, against expectation, is an immersive theatre adaptation of the non-fiction memoirs that spawned the 2013 movie. What’s more, it is being staged in a capacious address located a coke-fuelled trot away from London’s City equivalent of the do-or-die New York milieu from which Belfort has since emerged post-imprisonment as some sort of anti-heroic guru.

And if your response to the very fact of this show is, “Why?”, well, join the club. Whereas writer-director Alexander Wright hit paydirt with an ongoing, comparably immersive Great Gatsby, a story that at the very least allows for lots of fancy-dress shenanigans, what’s the appeal of losing the celluloid filter between us and Jordan and his money-mad acolytes? Not long into the (overlong) scenario, I had a puzzling sense of déjà vu until I realised that I hadn’t experienced such barely contained testosterone since I found myself some years back on a flight to Prague surrounded by lots of eager participants in a stag party weekend away. (Those same folks on the flight back were virtually comatose.)James Bryant as Danny in 'The Wolf of Wall Street'There’s not much chance of nodding off here once events indoctrinate us into the code of omertà (mispronounced, by the way) at the stock-trading firm of Stratton Oakmont – the brokerage house where Belfort made his fortune before his fall from grace. Asked to drop to our knees (at which point, cue any manner of sexually suggestive, unprintable follow-ons), we then pursue one of several different storylines, or “tracks”, across four floors and 27 rooms watched over by various minders in case things get a bit too, um, ravenously lupine. New York-style hot dogs are on sale to ramp up an authenticity not always evident from an ensemble who would seem to have spent too many hours watching Goodfellas on repeat. Amidst a theatrical climate in which American accents tend no longer to be an issue, here's a reminder of how hard they can be to get right. 

Delayed nearly two months for reasons having to do both with the venue and the script, Wolf foregrounds a landscape whose particulars are largely unfamiliar from the film (and vice versa), even if both share an energy level that one can appreciate onscreen without wanting to encounter in real life. And whereas the Shunt style of immersive theatre prompts audiences to mix and match their playgoing experience, the approach taken here pushes you into one storyline or another: it was only due to the vigilance of a tireless cast that I was yanked out of one narrative into another, though I never did find out what happened to the sweatily indefatigable Danny (James Bryant, pictured above), which, in context, may be just as well.

One assumes this sweet-faced child isn’t within earshot when her onstage mum is described as having a 'delectable vagina'

Suffice it to say that I ended up mostly pursuing the domestic narrative, which meant making the acquaintance of the exceedingly amiable Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty’s Nadine, wife to Oliver Tilney’s wild-eyed but strangely absent Jordan and mother to their seven-year-old daughter Chandler, played at the performance caught by the adorable, apparently unfazed Suri De Jesus (misspelled in the programme). One assumes this sweet-faced child isn’t within earshot when her onstage mum is described as having a “delectable vagina”. That, incidentally, is as nothing compared to some of the (impromptu, one hopes) zingers proffered at more misogynistic moments to unsuspecting women in the audience, at least one of whom during the run may well be tempted to strike back, and with good reason. 

Lest proceedings be seen to be too in love with a monstrous world from which most of us would these days run a mile, my fellow playgoers were given a moralistic, virtue-signalling finish that may or may not find an equivalent in the other stories going on elsewhere in the building. At the end, you can grab a drink and mingle with the very lovely cast: the actors I met seemed light years removed from the venal environs they must inhabit seven times a week, and praise be for that.

The audience is watched over by various minders in case things get a bit too, um, ravenously lupine

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters