Northern Ballet are a small but much-loved company based in Leeds. Known for their impressive dance dramas, they regularly create innovative narrative ballets which are toured across the UK.
Their latest work, The Great Gatsby, is based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was choreographer George Balanchine who said that there are no mother-in-laws in ballet – or in other words, that ballet cannot effectively convey complex character relationships. And this is a story that is full of them.
David Nixon’s choreography makes a superb attempt to convey the complex plot but unless you are familiar with the book, action is difficult to follow. It wasn’t until the end of the first act that we started to understand who all the characters were and feel a sense of empathy for them.
But this aside (and this is easily overcome by a little synopsis reading), Gatsby is a wonderful ballet. Choreography and costume designs by David Nixon are gorgeous. Party scenes and pas de deux in particular are a spectacular mix of feathered headbands, floaty dresses and vibrant, impassioned dancing. Music by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett is also a delight, with a wonderful variety of sounds and moods created and played to perfection by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia.
In the lead roles of Gatsby and Daisy, Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt make an excellent couple. Kenneth Tindall is also well-cast as Daisy’s dissatisfied husband, Tom. Hannah Bateman makes an energetic Jordan and Giuliano Contadini is a charming Nick. All round, the cast is impressive, especially in group party numbers which range from tango-style moves to 1920s flapper dancing.
If you love Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, you will love this ballet. And if you’ve never read the book, you’ll love the ballet too – but you will need to do some reading up in advance.
The Great Gatsby is at Sadler’s Wells until 18 May. Tickets priced £12-42 are available from the Sadler’s Wells website. Londonist saw this performance on a complimentary press ticket. Pictured: Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt / Photo: Bill Cooper