Northern Ballet’s David Nixon demonstrates with The Great Gatsby his genius for giving audiences three ingredients that ensure a successful production: exquisitely executed choreography, clear storytelling and an evening of musical and visual delight.
This is all the more of an achievement F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that is not only an intricate web of relationships but delves into the psyche not only of characters but also the American Dream. This is mastered with sharp characterisation through individual movement, contrasts and similarities between the choreography created for the principals, and striking corps de ballet sequences.
The themes of loss and the yearning to regain the past, of the shallowness of a seemingly carefree wealth-based society, and the contrasts between the haves and the have nots, are all captured within this fast moving and sumptuous show.
The dance is masterful whether for the myriad of emotions expressed between Jay and Daisy and the passion of Myrtle and George through to quite sensational parts scenes that fuse jazz age dance with Nixon’s contemporary style palette.
Having the young Jay and Daisy as when they first fall in love reappear as almost ghosts of the lost past works well in reinforcing the sense of loss and perhaps artificiality of their adult lives. It also, of course, creates opportunities for dances of longing and ultimate sadness. It is perhaps a little to do done and at times the atmosphere become a little sugary sentmental. However,the youngsters are charmingly danced by Rachael Gillespie and Harris Beattie.
Image: Emma Kauldhar
Image Emma Kauldhar
Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor
Image Caroline Holden
It is all helped enormously by designers Tim Mitchell and Jérôme Kaplan’s lighting and scrims enable the establishment of not only changing locations but also the time periods of different scenes. Some of those scenes are a litle hurried to get that story moving along while more time is found for, delightful as they are, less important big dance routines, such as the party scenes. Particular clever is the use of a mirrored wall that distorts the characters, suggesting that not all is as intoxicatingly glamorous behind the gorgeous facades.
The show is a delight to the eye, not only the vitally important dance itself, but Nixon’s just breath-taking costumes. A joy also on the ear with the sweeping music of Richard Rodney Bennett, that at times utilises well-known period tunes particularly for dances, performed by the splendid Northern Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Daniel Parkinson.
This highly professional, lavish and hugely engaging show would rival any West End musical extravaganza with its rip roaring 20s parties, bustling New York street scenes, duets and solos all danced with aplomb.
Here we have a cast with an embarrassment of riches, leaps, turns, gestures all performed with a seemingly effortless grace.
Interestingly and probably due to the nature of the roles in the novel some characters are more vividly drawn, such as the at first apparently bright and carefree Daisy from Abigail, the muscularity of Tom Buchanan of Lorenzo Trossello, the slight and slightly parasitic slightly clipped style for Nick Carraway of Sean Bates (who has the role of narrator in the book), the frustrated and sensuous choreography for Myrtle, danced by a ravishing Minju Kang, and the rawness of the movement from her husband George from a lithe Riku Ito.
It is possibly because the character of Jay, danced impeccably by Joseph Taylor, is the most enigmatic in the novel itself he has a less rich choreography. But then perhaps this is also intentional, representing the mystery of the novel and the show’s title role.
It is great the company is back and with such a marvellous show.
New Theatre, Cardiff, until June 11.
Main image: Emily Nuttall