Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Great Gatsby

Northern Ballet , New Theatre Cardiff , April-24-13
The Great Gatsby by Northern Ballet Northern Ballet has built up a justifiably strong following in Cardiff with its repertory of narrative dances that combine excellent story-telling with impeccable movement. This new show is no exception although taking an intricate, complicated and sometime far from clear novel and converting into dance proves quote a challenge.

The result is a production that while a little over-episodic and requiring reading of the programme to genuinely follow that narrative, is a glorious evening of dance, crammed with show stopping ensemble pieces, charismatic cameo performances and sweet duets.

Audiences cannot but fall for the beautiful costumes and the rich score from the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett played with joie de vivre by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia conducted music director John Pryce Jones. The dancers are given a varied score on which to surf, ranging and incorporating jazz, a touch of tango, crooning songs and soft lyrical passages.

The first act is the most successful in telling the story, set against clever designs and lighting from Tim Mitchell and Jérôme Kaplan, with the love affair between Gatsby and daisy (danced as adults by Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt and as youngsters by Jeremy Curnier and Julie Charlet) explained through a wartime flashback (well several).

Similarly, this act effectively introduces us to the dubious financial dealings of Gatsby, Daisy’s damaged relationship with husband Tom Buchanan (Kenneth Tindall) and the even more troubled Myrtle and George Wilson (Victoria Sibson and Benjamin Mitchell), and Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker (Hannah Bateman), all told through our narrator Nick Carraway (Giuliano Contadini).

Those set designs niftily transpose the action between the rich coastal home of Gatsby and Daisy’s mansion across the water and then the Wilson’s oily garage and the Tom and Myrtle love nest above it.

The second act is less successful, largely as so much plot has to be driven through and in terms of dance development the relationship with Daisy and Gatsby (again either as youngsters or as adults) has nowhere to go.

However, the characterisation is well drawn with wonderfully rich performances from Tindall as butch, mean Buchanan, Mitchell’s anguished tyre-wielding Wilson, Sibson’s intoxicatingly danced Myrtle and Contadini’s impeccable Carraway. There is less room for greatness in the choreography for either of the sets of Daisy and Gatsby but then that in a way reflects the ambiguities of the book itself: they are harder characters to really get to grips with.

Choreographer David Nixon is at his edge of seat best when he is handling the ensemble pieces the magical party scenes and the clever New York street scenes. There is much more to the show than these scenes, but alone they would make it really worth stepping out for the evening into this The Great Gatsby, one of several new takes on F Scott Fitzgerald’s world now that 1925 novel is out of copyright.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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