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The Great Gatsby - Northern Ballet

Published by: Louise Winter on 17th Apr 2013 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

The Great Gatsby
reviewed16th April

ed theatres

Whilst F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel appears to lend itself to adaptation, there are some problematic areas in the genre of ballet; not having the scope to explore the language creates some issues here. The central story thread is generally apparent and on the whole understandable. However, the issue of translating Fitzgerald’s language into dance is of course an almost impossible task. As a result, we have here a visual impression of the novel rather than a completely loyal, deep and perhaps fully satisfying production.

As director David Nixon states ‘the challenge of course with any great work of literature is how to bring it to life through another medium while trying to heed to and express the magnificence of the language. This production does not intend to translate the book word for word but to capture the heart of the emotions, turmoils, loves and indiscretions of the people whose stories it tells’.

The stage design by Tim Mitchell and Jerome Kaplan is reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s painted depictions of America and effective in creating contrasting time and place. The switching between Gatsby’s mansion, Tom’s New York apartment, the Wilsons’ garage, and the juxtaposition of these is effectively depicted with seamless scenery changes which have a smooth elegance complementing the sophistication of the overall production. To say it is ‘simple’ staging sounds derogatory, but in this instance less is simply more. When one considers that the designers could have really gone to town with a sumptuous, complicated, overdressed stage, it’s refreshing to see they have resisted this, allowing instead Tim Mitchell’s lighting, the costumes and the choreography to balance each other with the staging the fourth element.

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As always the Northern Ballet dancers are exemplary; faultless and particularly light footed this evening. Mastering their choreography, oftentimes intricate and furiously fast, they are an exceptional company as demonstrated by their ensemble pieces.

Giuliano Contadini is neat and tidy as Nick, portraying the newcomer clearly. Kenneth Tindall is well cast as the strong, solid and aggressive Tom Buchanan, and is dynamic on stage. Benjamin Mitchell as Wilson has some of the most striking of Nixon’s choreography and makes the most of it whereas Tobias Batley as Gatsby has little specifically unique to his character and suffers somewhat as a result. He is an enigma both in novel and on stage.

The female characters have less interesting choreography; Martha Seebolt, as Daisy, is graceful but much of her material is repetitive and this leaves a rather one dimensional image of her, whereas Victoria Sibson as, Myrtle Wilson has the more interesting part and more interesting choreography; her character is more developed as a result.

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All the elements are here to create a visually and aesthetically pleasing production, so why did I leave feeling strangely detached from the characters and the story? I feel it is because there are no moments that create any real emotional engagement for the audience. Events in the book that draw you into the story and enable you to empathise with the characters are here but lack the melodrama or pathos to allow the connection between stage and audience. I left feeling that I had thorougly enjoyed a perfectly executed and beautifully staged production but not that I had experienced the emotional depth of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. Whilst not necessarily a criticism, if Nixon's intention was ‘to capture the heart of the emotions’ then this has not fully transferred into this ballet production.

at MK Theatre until Sat 20th April
box office 08448717652 or visit
for further tour dates see



  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Louise. Great review. I'm glad that you were able to explain your feelings of detatchment about this production as Northern Ballet have a very strong reputation. Sometimes even the best companies cannot deliver on every front every time.
  • Louise Winter
    by Louise Winter 5 years ago
    Thanks Cameron. It is a beautifully elegant production and I am a great fan of Northern Ballet.
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