Created by the company’s former director David Nixon exactly 10 years ago, The Great Gatsby gets under the skin of F Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, outlining its story of complicated love entanglements that lead inexorably to tragedy amid the glamour of the 1920s Jazz Age with remarkable clarity and fully rounded characters.
It is visually glamorous, with Nixon’s Chanel-inspired costumes reflecting the novel’s detailed descriptions.
Northern Ballet dancers in The Great Gatsby. Photo: Caroline Holden
Add to that Jérôme Kaplan’s intelligent set design where sketchy but immensely suggestive props combine with Tim Mitchell’s lighting to create atmospheric settings for each of the ballet’s 16 scenes without holding up the action; and a cinematic score blending pieces by Richard Rodney Bennett and period popular music, and you have the perfect recipe for an dazzling, gripping story ballet.
On opening night, the tall, long-limbed and impeccably elegant Northern Ballet principal Joseph Taylor brought a perturbing humanity to the central character, Jay Gatsby. Through his deeply expressive dancing he communicated the man’s mystery, his loneliness and his obsession with the lost love of his youth, Daisy.
Daisy, now married to the brutish Tom Buchanan, is a flighty, child-woman character. Dominique Larose’s assured dancing portrayed her conflicting emotions: excitement at the illicit nature of her reunion with Gatsby and reluctance to commit to him and leave her comfortable, if unsatisfactory, married life.
Dominique Larose, Gavin McCaig and Joseph Taylor in The Great Gatsby. Photo: Emily Nuttall
Gavin McCaig’s Buchanan is the most unsympathetic character. A coarse alpha male, he has an affair with Myrtle, the wife of middle-of-nowhere garage owner George, just because he can; and Myrtle, a passionate, needy Helen Bogatch, clings to him despite his violence.
Their pas de deux midway through Act I is the moment when the ballet really comes alive, exploding with sex and emotion after a series of scenes that work as an introduction to the characters and their circumstances.
The back story is told in flashback, with the young Gatsby and Daisy, danced by Harris Beattie and Rachael Gillespie, returning to haunt the present-day characters.
Dominique Larose and Joseph Taylor in The Great Gatsby. Photo: Emily Nuttall
George Liang imbues Myrtle’s loving husband George with impressive, heart-breaking humanity – a simple, increasingly desperate man, who loses everything to the rich, dissolute people with whom he can’t compete.
As in the novel, the action is seen through the eyes of Daisy’s young cousin Nick Carraway, newly arrived in New York, who gradually becomes Gatsby’s confidante and engineers the fateful encounter with Daisy. In this cast he was danced with youthful near-innocence by Sean Bates.
Sean Bates and Joseph Taylor in The Great Gatsby. Photo: Emily Nuttall
Under their new director, former Royal Ballet principal Federico Bonelli, the company is dancing with renewed vim and crispness, and the Northern Ballet Sinfonia under Jonathan Lo’s baton transitioned smoothly from orchestra to jazz band and back again.
Different casts will take on the main roles in this short Sadler’s Wells run, with Royal Ballet principal Ryoichi Hirano guesting as Gatsby, and former Northern Ballet principal Minju Kang as Daisy on Friday and Saturday.
|Northern Ballet, The Great Gatsby review
|Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
16 May 23 – 20 May 23, 19:30 Thu & Sat mats at 14:30 Dur.: 2 hours 20 mins approx inc one interval
|£15-£85 (+booking fee)
|Click here to book