[Images courtesy of Northern Ballet]
The Great Gatsby is one of the most famous American novels that has captured the imagination of theatre and film directors alike.
Scott Fitzgerald’s third novel is probably his most celebrated and famous, but back in his day it wasn’t an instant success. It took many years for audiences to appreciate the book for what it is: an amazing piece of literature that captures the essence of that period of time.
The story has all the elements of a classic; romance, tragedy, intrigue and honour are the main topics of this novel.
Set in the roaring 20’s, The Great Gatsby tells the story of the mysterious tycoon Jay Gatsby, owner of an impressive mansion in New York’s Long Island. Gatsby is famous for his extravagant all-night parties and lavish lifestyle.
But behind this crazy world of luxury and eccentricity lies this man, Gatsby, shrouded in mystery. No one knows him, or has ever seen him before. Very little is known about his past and the imaginations of the guests run wild as they conjure the most absurd and bizarre stories about him.
Next door to Gatsby lives Nick Carraway, a young salesman who is the story’s narrator. Nick witnesses week by week all of the fabulous parties that Gatsby hosts and dreams of how it would be to attend one of them.
In the meantime he visits his cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Daisy has an irresistible charm, a bubbly and flirtatious character, she is desperately unhappy. She is married to Tom Buchanan, a prosperous man who is in the throes of an affair with a married woman named Myrtle Wilson.
One day, Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties and it is there that he finally meets the ‘Great Gatsby’ in person. Nick is soon infatuated by Gatsby’s way of life and his seductive personality. He finds discovers that Gatsby’s mysterious ways are the product of a deep melancholy.
Gatsby, who Nick finds out has come from a very poor background, had been in love many years previously, but the relationship had not lasted as the girl’s parents hadn’t allowed her to marry a “nobody”. Wanting to make a fortune and impress the girl, Gatsby worked very hard – or so he says – and made millions to marry her. But in that time she married another man.
Soon after Gatsby’s revelation, Nick finds out that this girl is in fact his own cousin, Daisy, and captivated as he is by the story, Nick tries to reunite the past lovers.
This play is very difficult to display as a ballet dance, as it has many scenes where dialogue seems necessary, but the Northern Ballet exceeded my expectations and blew my mind with the beautiful choreography and the magnificent staging.
When you think about ballet, you often automatically think about classical pieces such as “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake”, but recently we have seen a renaissance within ballet as it adds more contemporary pieces to its repertoire. This provides a different perspective and offers the spectator a completely new angle from which to access these stories.
Each one of the actors within the Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby succeeds in displaying their character’s personality: Gatsby’s mysteriousness and charm is portrayed wonderfully by Javier Torres, while Dreda Blow’s delicate and beautiful moves evoke images of Daisy’s daintiness and fragility.
Abigail Prudames offers a great performance as Myrtle Wilson, demonstrating the different shades to her character; sexy and provocative, but also desperate and lonely.
Matthew Topliss as George Wilson – Myrtle’s husband – has one of the best moments of the show, giving a dramatic solo performance as he dances alone with a car wheel to accompany his movements.
Even if you haven’t read the story this performance is easy to follow because it has so many narrative elements; its lack of dialogue does not hinder it. I thought it magical the way that the company was able to capture the essence of the book so wonderfully.
The scenery, costumes and props were amazing, with very accurate representations of the 20’s style – everything superbly adapted for ballerinas and dancers. I was delighted, for instance, by the glamorous dresses worn at one of Gatsby’s parties.
The music, composed by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, really sends you back in time; the jazz, Charleston and soft melodies really put me in the mood for a dance afterwards.
For more information about Northern Ballet you can visit their website