Transforming a Hollywood classic into a drama staged at the world’s oldest surviving music hall is the task of Peter Joucla.
The director will launch the autumn season at Wilton’s Music Hall with his take on 1970s film, The Sting.
The plot tells the tale of two small time con men Johnny Hooker and Henry Gondorff – played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the silver screen classic – and their attempts to outwit powerful mob leader Doyle Lonnegan in sleazy 1930s Chicago.
Peter is keen to bring the toxic atmosphere of the American city alive on the East End stage having already rolled the clock back to the 1920s at the venue for an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, performed in 2012 and 2013.
To recreate the snapshot of American life this time around, he has combined a trend for immersive theatre with the venue’s newly refurbished and re--opened rooms.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” he said. “But the objective is to make the audience feel like they can almost smell 1930s Chicago, to get an understanding of the context of the production before seeing it.
“There will be a room that’s like a betting room and there will be card tricks and improvised activities in there.
“It just sets the audience up and makes them feel they are part of that world. I believe it will work incredibly well here because we can transform the building – that’s a thing that’s going to appeal to younger people.
“It’s more than a sit-down experience watching the house lights go down.
“This is more – you get involved in the interaction of a number of characters and some of the characters you see you will be encountering earlier on in the night. I think that adds to theexperience and gives the story context.”
Visitors to the Graces Alley venue are also encouraged to don 1930s clobber for the production, which runs from September 9 to October 14.
Live music and events in the bar area mean “the buzz of that world” continues after the curtain closes.
But what about the potential pitfalls of recreating a much-loved flick? Peter said he was keen to put his own stamp on the production.
“I’ve done a few adaptations of films and the first one I did, I heard people say ‘it’s very similar to the film’,” he said. “I was hurt by that and thought make sure next time you don’t make a focus on the film.
“The story of The Sting is a brilliant one and to tell it through the medium of theatre is going to be different anyway.
“People will recognise the characters, but I have picked actors that don’t necessarily look like Robert Redford and Paul Newman, so as soon as they settle down they will start to believe in these characters.
“And there are still extra things we can bring out because we are doing it our way.
“It’s like Wilton’s has a huge bucket of atmosphere – you can pour it onto any production, and it will enhance it.”
■ The Sting, Wilton’s Music Hall, September 9 to October 14, evening shows 7.30pm, from £22.50,