Writer: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Director: David Nixon OBE
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director David Nixon OBE is one of the world’s most prolific producers of narrative dance including choreography, direction and costume design for the recent stunning revival of Dracula and the forthcoming tour of Wuthering Heights. His adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, considered by many as the seminal American novel of the last century, is faithful to the source material while still managing to be a simply superb piece of modern dance.
Set in roaring twenties America, Jerome Kaplan’s magnificent and evocative sets combine with Nixon’s luscious and delightful costumes to capture the era before the bubble of the American Dream burst and fell apart in the Great Depression. Admittedly, dealing as it does with a complex and wide range of characters and relationships, it helps to have some idea of the novel’s schemata, and this is conveniently given on Northern Ballet’s website.
But just as pure spectacle itself, with scene seamlessly transforming into scene in breathtaking rapidity, and performances that reach the high bar set by the company, this is Nixon’s pièce de résistance. Two Northern Ballet favourites appear, Tobias Batley as Jay Gatsby and Kenneth Tindall as Tom Buchanan, and both deserve praise for carrying the piece with an incredible dynamic energy and flamboyant aplomb in their characterisation.
Martha Leebolt as Daisy Buchmann and Jessica Morgan as Myrtle Wilson provide a more delicate and refined complement that is both lyrical and sensual, and an easily over-looked but crucial performance, in this terrific ensemble piece, comes from Isaac Lee-Baker as Myrtle’s cuckolded mechanic husband – he does things with a tyre you wouldn’t believe!
Both the lavish party scenes are visual and aural feasts (with the Charleston and tango respectively) and Richard Rodney Bennett’s score carries the narrative throughout all its twists and turns adeptly. As Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin, is the narrator in the novel he appears in virtually every scene here and Giuliano Contadini gives a convincing rendition of the character both through dance and more theatrical effects.
This is what makes this Northern Ballet production so brilliant; there is the use of many theatrical techniques such as frieze and ultra-expressive gesture and facial expression, without deterring from the flow of the ballet itself. Despite the tragic outcome of events you are left with an inner smile and dazzled wonder by this terrific tale of deception and decadence.
Runs until: 15th November 2014 then touring to London and Norwich in 2015