Fuelled by the colourful narrative of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Northern Ballet accompanied by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia have reinterpreted The Great Gatsby into a live picture book. Mesmerising visuals by director David Nixon bring sweeping sets to the Lowry stage, supporting the young and animated cast of characters throughout the moving production. Helping audiences to escape into the summer of 1922, Nixon’s direction sees the characters through the bustling streets of New York, into intimate gatherings and gas stations. Glistening costumes, smarmy personalities and hidden agendas have been playfully transformed through the ballet, which concentrates on the rich details surrounding the mysterious Gatsby.
Although motives and characters have been removed, the production plays through Gatsby’s backstory with duelling Gatsby’s in a simple walkthrough of Fitzgerald’s novel. Guiding audiences through the story, the production offers an absorbing and memorable collection of stand out sequences from its brilliant ensemble cast. Bursts of jazz, striking flapper dresses and the seductive lifestyle of the rich are all embraced on the Lowry stage. The slick production that follows Nick Carraways growing friendship with his secretive and extravagant neighbour, Jay Gatsby has been condensed for audiences unfamiliar with the story, but its narrative feels far from underdeveloped.
Cutting out much of Gatsby’s shadowy past, the production focuses on the romantic history between its characters, including beautiful duets and choreography from Ashley Dixon (Gatsby), Antoinette Brooks-Daw (Daisy) and Kevin Poeung (Nick), who playfully throw Daisy between themselves in a scene that strips back its detailed set. The ballet is unable to fully unpack Gatsby’s history and motivations surrounding the American Dream, but instead centres the novel around the glamour, glitz and love of the period. As a result, the show is fuelled with excess and keeps the production energetic through its use of live and recorded music by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.
As the restless characters pace from one beautifully crafted scene to another, the shows decision to offer a romanticised reinterpretation steers the story to a simplified finally that still excites and reclaims the best parts of the novel. Tracing Fitzgerald’s imaginative and mysterious storytelling into colourful choreography seems as out of reach as Gatsby’s green light; however, Northern Ballet brings the roaring twenties to life with this fascinating and elegant production of the classic.