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THE GREAT GATSBY

5 April 2015

Last week I attended the opening night of the Northern Ballet's The Great Gatsby, back for only seven performances at Sadler's Wells after an acclaimed, sell-out run in 2013. The production tells F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third novel and much-loved story of the heady, roaring 1920s in New York: Nick Carraway moves with his wife Daisy to NY's Long Island, next door to Jay Gatsby, the mysterious millionaire neighbour with a corrupt past and a penchant for opulent parties.  

The Northern Ballet Great Gatsby, Sadler's Wells March 2015

Before long the glamour fades, we see the other side of the lonely, obsessive Gatsby and learn about the history between the characters whilst the text explores the differences between old and new money, the midwest and east coast and the transformation of everyday life in post-war America.  It's a magnetic novel, and one which I love: I've read it, seen it read out in its entirety in the 8-hour long Gatz in 2012 and, of course, the recent Leo DiCaprio movie - so it was fantastic to see it re-imagined in ballet format too.

The choreography by award-winning David Nixon is stylish and elegant, fusing classic and modern ballet fused with a touch of 20s charleston and passionate tango set to sweeping classical, jazz and swing music scored by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE, which was played live by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia and orchestrated by John Longstaff.  Jérôme Kaplan’s uncomplicated set design was suitably 1920s with long floor-to-ceiling curtains and side lighting casting dramatic, long shadows.

My favourite scene was the Tim Walker-esque party at Gatsby's house, with ladies in pretty sorbet pastel dresses and coiffed men in black tie and tails gliding across the floor between waiters in tuxedos serving trays of champagne coupes beneath fairy lights in the trees.  The gorgeous costumes and make up are all drop-hem beaded dresses, curled hair and slick bobs, feather headdresses, dark eyelids, strong lined eyebrows, bold lips and sharp men in linen suits and slick quiffs. Jazz Age at its finest. It's a super-stylish production, but perhaps too narrative for those who don't love the text, era or ballet in general. But if you tick any or all of those boxes (like me), you'll love it; I've seen the Northern Ballet several times and this was my favourite performance.

Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN
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