Northern Ballet’s “The Great Gatsby”: A glimpse into the roaring twenties

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” continues to captivate audiences with its timeless portrayal of the roaring 20s, and Northern Ballet’s production at Sadler’s Wells in Islington, London, brings this modern classic to life on stage. With artistic Director David Nixon CBE’s exquisite choreography, opulent costumes inspired by Chanel, and a captivating score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE, this sell-out sensation is the most glamorous party in town. It’s a great night out for parents away from the children as it is recommended for an adult audience only. It’s only running between 17 and 20 May 2023 so get tickets early!

Northern Ballet's The Great Gatsby- A Glimpse into the Roaring Twenties london mums magazine collage

Captivating Performances and Dazzling Choreography

“The Great Gatsby” presented by Northern Ballet is a visual feast, transporting the audience back to the glitz and glamour of the 1920s. The performances are filled with passion, style, and drama, leaving the viewers mesmerised. The dancers glide effortlessly across the stage, executing choreography that is tender, confrontational, witty, and undeniably sexy. The ensemble dances, including a joyous Charleston, are pure escapism, immersing the audience in the lively spirit of the era. Nixon’s choreography skilfully captures the essence of the story, showcasing the opulence and decadence of the Gatsby era.

Visual Splendour and Luxurious Costumes

Northern Ballet’s production is a visual treat, with stunning costumes that shimmer and sparkle like the Gatsby chandeliers. The Chanel-inspired costumes, designed by Nixon with the assistance of Julie Anderson, transport the audience into the world of the characters, adding an extra layer of authenticity and beauty to the performance. The intricate details and rich textures of the costumes contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of the ballet, enhancing the storytelling and immersing the audience in the lavishness of the era.

Translating a Novel to the Ballet “The Great Gatsby” poses unique challenges when translating the intricacies of Fitzgerald’s language and narrative into the language of dance. In terms of my attention span, while during the first act of the ballet I was nodding off from time to time, in the second act I was mesmerised by the intensity of the dances successfully capturing the essence of the novel, and the love affair between Daisy and Gatsby. Dominique Larose brings a blithe and impetuous energy to the character of Daisy, and Joseph Taylor’s portrayal of Gatsby showcases his character’s complexity and elegance.

Despite the complexity of the plot, the ballet choreography manages to simplify and adapt the intricate story and its various complications well into balletic terms. The choreography stays loyal to the novel’s plot throughout. To fully realise the potential of the ballet, the choreographers would benefit from the courage to deviate from Fitzgerald’s original structure, allowing the dancers to find their own unique expression.

 

Why “The Great Gatsby” endures

Despite the challenges of translating a literary masterpiece to the stage, “The Great Gatsby” continues to resonate with audiences. Fitzgerald’s novel explores themes of ambition, love, and the pursuit of the American Dream, which remain relevant to this day. 

Since its publication in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby,” has captured the hearts and minds of readers around the world. Even nearly a century later, the novel continues to resonate with audiences of all ages, cementing its status as a modern classic.

The allure of the 1920s, with its flapper girls, glitz, and Golden Age glamour, transports audiences to a bygone era filled with intrigue and excitement. The story’s exploration of the human condition, the facade of wealth, and the tragic consequences of unattainable dreams strike a chord with viewers, offering a glimpse into the timeless nature of the human being.

  1. Captivating Characters:

One of the primary reasons for the novel’s enduring appeal lies in Fitzgerald’s ability to create unforgettable characters. Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic millionaire with an insatiable desire for the unattainable, continues to fascinate readers with his opulent parties and elusive past. Daisy Buchanan, the epitome of the American dream, represents both beauty and shallowness. These complex and flawed characters resonate with readers, allowing them to reflect on their own desires, dreams, and the illusions they chase in their lives.

  1. Critique of the American Dream:

“The Great Gatsby” offers a scathing critique of the American Dream, a theme that remains relevant in today’s society. Fitzgerald explores the dark underbelly of the pursuit of wealth, social status, and materialism. Through Gatsby’s relentless pursuit of the unattainable, readers are forced to question the emptiness that lies beneath the surface of the glamorous and extravagant lifestyle often associated with the American Dream. This critique strikes a chord with contemporary audiences grappling with similar themes in an increasingly materialistic society.

  1. Timeless Themes:

The novel explores timeless themes that transcend the era in which it was written. Love, betrayal, identity, social class, and the corrupting influence of wealth are all themes that continue to resonate with readers today. Fitzgerald’s acute understanding of human nature allows readers to relate to the characters and their struggles, regardless of the passage of time. The universality of these themes ensures that the novel remains relevant and relatable, even in the modern world.

  1. Beautiful Prose:

Fitzgerald’s lyrical and evocative prose adds to the novel’s enduring popularity. His vivid descriptions bring the opulence and decadence of the Jazz Age to life, painting a picture of a bygone era. The beauty of Fitzgerald’s writing style transports readers to the glittering parties, the opulent mansions, and the desolate billboard eyes of the Valley of Ashes. His poetic language and meticulous attention to detail create an immersive reading experience that continues to captivate audiences.

  1. Influence on Popular Culture:

“The Great Gatsby” has had a significant impact on popular culture, further contributing to its enduring popularity. The novel has been adapted into several successful films, including the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and the 2013 adaptation featuring Leonardo Di Caprio. These film adaptations have introduced the story to new generations, sparking interest in the original text. Additionally, references to Gatsby and his lavish parties have become cultural touchstones, appearing in music, fashion, and even everyday conversations. This continuous presence in popular culture ensures that the story remains relevant and sought after.

 

As readers continue to seek out stories that explore the complexities of human nature, “The Great Gatsby” will undoubtedly remain an essential and celebrated work for generations to come.

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