Storytelling at its finest; Northern Ballet’s version of The Great Gatsby is inspired. A true ensemble piece with strong storytelling and characterisation, there are no background characters here, with each personality shining through in solos to duets and group scenes. 

The story is familiar to many, taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s modern classic The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby lives a life of glamour in the roaring twenties, still lingering on his first love Daisy, who happens to live across the bay. Gatsby is a story of what is public, and what is going on below the surface. 

This production is utterly beautiful and so considered. David Nixon wears many hats as the Director, Choreographer, scenario and costume designer of the production. Nixon has such a clear vision which shines through. Though the set (designed by Jerome Kaplan) is deceptively simple – consisting of moving panels with room dividers, however, even the simplistic draped curtain creates a story. There is opulence throughout the design, particularly in the lighting (designed by Tim Mitchell) and of course the Chanel-inspired costumes. There is a clear cohesive aesthetic in the costuming and yet each character stands out through colour and silhouette. 

Some lovely moments of storytelling were the green flashing light indicating Daisy’s house, which creates a focal point for Gatsby when he dreams about their young love. The green light is then mirrored in a lamppost when we are in scenes set in Daisy’s house. Along with the green light, we get flashbacks to Young Gatsby (Harris Beattie) and Young Daisy (Rachel Gillespie) as they fall in love – with the current-day Gatsby (Sean Bates) mirroring these movements, showing he is still stuck in the past.

Visually there is a strong association of Singin’ In The Rain’s ‘Broadway Melody’ ballet performed by Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse – the softness of a pastel clouded backdrop and a beautiful woman in a white dress and the ‘Good Morning’ trio.

There are moments of overly stylised ballroom and charleston in the party scenes, beautifully complimented by the 20s style costumes. There are lovely moments of mirroring, particularly from Gatsby and Young Gatsby but at times these are a little laboured. The characterisation in the mafia style group scenes, is delightful, over exaggerated ‘look outs’ and swaggering gaits, whilst also keeping a balletic feel are really lovely to watch, falling just shy of being a caricature, remaining fully formed but not pantomimed. There are moments of frivolity in movement, sensuality, and sex and then a sweetness and softness in the moments with Daisy. There are some stunning lifts amongst the duets and some throw/catches of Daisy between Nick and Gatsby that are breathtaking. 

Though all of the cast should be commended there are standout performances in Gavin Liang as George and Helen Bogatch as Myrtle. Their duets are glorious. Boggatch’s Myrtle is so full of personality and sensuality, I could have watched her dance all day. 

This is a very clever production but a few elements, such as the green light, may need explaining in order to truly appreciate it to its full. This then relies on dance/design knowledge and/or buying a programme. The story does translate but there are moments that could be lost.

There is a really lovely atmosphere in the audience as well with lots of people dressing up, with some flappers as well. Whether you are a fan of the book, the film or ballet in general, you will find something wonderful here. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Great Gatsby is on at Sadlers Wells Theatre until the 20th May – tickets and info here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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