Flapper girls, jazz and the decadence of the 1920s in New York are the setting for the Northern Ballet’s sensational production of The Great Gatsby. We were invited to the most glamorous party in town, and were certainly not disappointed.
This fast-paced production dazzles all the senses – from beautifully choreographed ballet by David Nixon, to stunning set design, to the most beautiful costumes, supported by a fantastic score – all resulting in a glorious production leaving the audience transfixed throughout.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel was brought to life, beginning when Nick Carraway moves to the East Coast, renting a small house in a nouveau riche town in Long Island. Here he reconnects with his cousin Daisy Buchanan, her husband Tom, and meets their friend Jordan Baker.
The Chanel-inspired costumes are stunning, with vibrant colours and gorgeous materials, and accentuating the beautiful lines of the dancers. The clever creative set, by Jerome Kaplan, conjures an America as painted by Edward Hopper, where we are transported from one beautiful house to the next.
Choreography of the ensemble make the backdrop come to life, whether in the busy streets of New York, with dancers expressing the hustle and bustle of the town, or those celebrating freedom and liberation from the horror of war, getting increasingly intoxicated at elaborate parties, dancing to jazz.
The real star of the show is Antoinette Brooks-Daw, as Daisy, executing the most exquisite ballet and being able to convey every emotion Daisy feels through every part of her body.
Kevin Poeung’s Nick masterfully conveys a man, not used to this society, awkward and awestruck by his surroundings, and yet a loyal friend to his cousin throughout.
Minju Kang’s Myrtle is wonderfully sassy, and happy to enjoy the jewels and presents bestowed on her by her lover, Tom.
The brilliant musical score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett provides the jazz and syncopation to allow Kang to shine in this production. The music facilitates the change from the joyous atmosphere of Myrtle’s party, to the dark moment when Tom punches her in the face, to a tender moment when the lovers make-up again.
Nick meets his next-door neighbour, the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, who has a penchant for lavish parties and beautiful women.
Ashley Dixon manages to make us first wonder who this rich man is, seemingly aloof to his guests, but as the production continues, and when he is re-connected with this lost-love Daisy, we see a man who is lonely and obsessive, and despite all the money he possesses, wants only one thing – the girl he fell in love with before he had to ship out to war.
The sequences where Gatsby is a young man, meeting Daisy for the first time are beautiful, and help us to understand why Gatsby has become the man he is, desperate to recapture his past.
Sean Bates is superb as Tom, embodying a passionate, obsessive and jealous man. In his movements, he is able to convey how his emotions flip from one extreme to another, with wonderful sequences where he desperately tries to keep Daisy away from Gatsby.
As the sparkling façade of Gatsby’s world begins to slip, the loneliness, obsession and tragedy that lies beneath is revealed in this wonderful production by the Northern Ballet.★ ★ ★ ★
Read our interview with choreographer David Bintley on 24 years leading Birmingham Royal Ballet.