The Great Gatsby at Sadler’s Wells
The Great Gatsby by Northern Ballet returns, captivating audiences while remaining faithful to the timeless classic. David Nixon CBE directs, dresses and choreographs this adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece. One may ponder how an iconic novel could be translated to the stage, especially with its elegiac prose, but the form works surprisingly well, both tangible and suggestive.
Narrator Nick Carraway (Sean Bates) makes his home in West Egg, while Daisy Buchanan (Nick’s cousin) and her friend, Jordan Baker, set their scene in East Egg. There is a freshness rendered in pale yellow, while Dominique Larose (Daisy) and Heather Lehan (Jordan) lounge. Daisy’s brutish husband, Tom (Gavin McCaig), rudely shakes off Nick’s greeting as he appears. Throughout the performance, we watch as Daisy’s sequences encapsulate a yearning to get away from him, almost pirouetting herself into the past.
Tragic hero Gatsby is as assured and mysterious as one can imagine, perfectly portrayed by an elegantly attired Joseph Taylor. When he arranges to meet Daisy, their chemistry is palpable. Meanwhile, Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson (Helen Bogatch), the seductive wife of mechanic George (George Liang). The latter’s choreography has a touch of the contemporary, as he longs for his wife’s attention, the scene (played out with a tyre prop) full of angst and one of many highlights.
There are several dance forms from the Jazz Age incorporated, including the foxtrot, Charleston and Lindy hop, as well as a surprising flamenco turn. The result is one of many qualities that preserve the richness and vitality of Fitzgerald’s masterwork.
The cast are phenomenal and all their sequences superbly detailed, performed in costumes that are also beautifully designed – inspired by Chanel, with the men in tailored suits and women in colourful tulle dresses. Astonishing and with plenty of charm, the dancers depict both desire for their loved ones and a turning away from unsought partners. A masterful scene in which Gatsby and Daisy are joined by their younger selves is poignant and memorable, contextualising and creating viscerally tender moments.
Although the green light glows on – one of the most symbolic features in American literature – the great eyes of Dr TJ Eckleburg on both East and West Egg are absent in Jérôme Kaplan’s minimalistic set design. However, this doesn’t remove from the essence of Northern Ballet’s adaptation, with sweeping romantic music by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE adding even greater emotion and propelling the narrative. While the finale is quite sudden, leaving one wanting more, it creates a lasting impression.
At the heart of Fitzgerald’s story is the pursuit of love. The novel closely resembles the writer’s own life, and this beautiful version captures those precious moments while leaving viewers spellbound, as “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.
The Great Gatsby is at Sadler’s Wells from 17th until 20th May 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: