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The Great Gatsby - Sheffield Tue 12 - Sat 16th March - Review by Melanie Creaser

Published by: Paul Tyree on 13th Mar 2013 | View all blogs by Paul Tyree


The Great Gatsby - Review by Melanie Creaser

Artistic Director David Nixon’s adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the Northern Ballet Theatre’s latest foray into literature through dance. 

Can this iconic novel of the Jazz Age with its exceptional dialogue and narration be convincingly adapted to ballet?  It is truly a challenge to perform this piece and provide sufficient insight into the lives, loves and neuroses of the characters without resorting to the spoken word.

            The opening scenes bode well and draw one in pleasingly, helped along by skilful lighting and stylish costumes.  The action jumps around a little as we are introduced to the main players in quick succession.  Seamless scene changes keep things on track.  As the performance progresses the dancers are delightfully exhilarating in their finery as they portray the dapper and flapper types of 1920s high society and wannabes. 

            The younger Gatsby and Daisy are shown often as memories at various stages in the performance.  This informs the audience of their past involvement but fails to offer a true understanding of Gatsby’s utter dedication to recreating his lost love affair and his single minded determination to become whatever he needs to be in order to take Daisy and make her his future.  

The sets are sometimes sparse but still impressive.  A sense of opulence when it is required is created more by costume and lighting than background.   There is a fitting dank and stark environment when it comes to Wilson’s garage, his wife Myrtle being the mistress of Daisy’s husband Tom, suitably aggressively portrayed by Kenneth Tindall.  Victoria Sibson as Myrtle provides the necessary contrast to Daisy with great success, indeed she and her stage husband Benjamin Mitchell as Wilson excel and rightly receive the warmest response from the audience.

            The 1920s Gatsby fails to make his presence felt. He is an enigmatic character to his party-going hangers-on but the audience needs to know him.  The choreography does not truly inform us of his inner turmoil, obsession and dedication to success, both financially and in terms of regaining his lost love.  We are shown that some of his dealings may have been less than above board but do not gain an understanding of why he feels he had to rise to the top.   

Regardless of any reservations the first half races by.  The largely classically acted ballet is beautiful, the performance absorbing.

            As the action intensifies during the second half, the dance remains compelling and passionate but it just isn’t enough without speech to adequately express the subtleties of Fitzgerald’s work.  Too many characters and nuances of the novel are missing.  With a work as short as The Great Gatsby everything is relevant and so omissions, although inevitable are bound to reflect on the quality of the story telling.

            Martha Leebolt is delightful as the adult Daisy.  Her acting as well as her dancing is captivating.  The problem is that what she is being asked to portray is simply not the Daisy of the novel.  Yes, she is a much maligned wife but she is also shallow and self-serving.  The audience should, but does not, suspect what Gatsby is unwilling to see, that she will always remain in the fold – Myrtle, Wilson and even ultimately, Gatsby being collateral damage.  It is a loss to the production that it fails to inform. 

The choreography afforded to Tobias Batley as Gatsby struggles to allow us to truly appreciate him.  The novel is called The Great Gatsby for a reason.  As Nick reflects at the end of the novel, Gatsby to him is the untainted character; Tom and Daisy are careless people.  He has nothing but disdain for them.  These reflections are significant but are omitted.  

            The individual’s response to this ballet depends on whether the quality of the ballet or success in relaying the intricacies of the plot is of more importance.  The dance, grace, costumes and the general feel the players create is truly engaging. However, due to a lack of the spoken word and shortcomings in the adaptation itself, the power of Gatsby’s dream and the reality which could not live up to it is not adequately expressed. 

Ultimately, although frustratingly untrue to some of the characters, as a story ballet for its own sake this production is skilful, graceful and utterly enjoyable.

Review by Melanie Creaser

Wed 13 Mar 7:45pm     Book Tickets
Thu 14 Mar 2:00pm     Book Tickets
Thu 14 Mar 7:45pm     Book Tickets
Fri 15 Mar 7:45pm     Book Tickets
Sat 16 Mar 3:00pm     Book Tickets
Sat 16 Mar 7:45pm    

 This production performed at the Sheffield Lyceum venue.


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Melanie. This production seems to have been a qualified success. I think that people considering buying tickets will find your review helpful.
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