The Great Gatsby, Northern Ballet, Sheffield Lyceum by Amy Stone
Based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s tale of love and longing, this ballet bears a weight of expectation: with such well-known characters and conflicts, how do you deliver something fresh and original? The Great Gatsby tells the story of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, obsessed with his former love, the now married Daisy. Daisy’s husband Tom is a wealthy playboy who is having an affair with Myrtle. Daisy and Gatbsy are finally brought together by Daisy’s cousin, Nick, and they rekindle their old romance. We watch the adulterous couples falter through their flawed lives, torn between worlds, climaxing in a deadly dénouement.
David Nixon certainly achieves a beautiful show – but does it manage to convey the complexities of the novel? I’m not convinced. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to love about this production. The cast is magnificent, with some star turns – such as Rachael Gillespie as a truly magnetic Myrtle and Harris Beattie’s soulful rendering of George. The Chanel-inspired costumes are exquisite, although perhaps a little too understated for real flapper style. The ensemble dances are a real strength, with several captivating group numbers taking inspiration from popular dances of the era including the Charleston and the Argentine Tango. Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s score, performed by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, brings the Jazz Age to life.
A few years ago, I saw Northern Ballet’s adaptation of 1984, and was absolutely blown away by it, so I had high hopes for this one. Who’d have thought that the Orwellian nightmare lends itself so much more readily to ballet than the glamour and glitz of Gatsby? Not me, but I’m afraid it’s definitely the case. The staging is clever, but at times potentially a little too subtle for anyone unfamiliar with the book. The storytelling is really en pointe (forgive the pun) in some parts, but falls flat in others. In summary, there are some stunning individual performances and some spectacular ensemble pieces, but overall this adaptation of Fitzgerald’s cautionary tale of the American dream needs a little less delicate frill and a little more seedy underbelly.