All That Northern Jazz – The Great Gatsby Review
"Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby is a literary classic that illuminates the consumerist culture that was emerging during the 1920s in America. It is a story that embodies jazz, fashion; and amongst this there is an emotional love affair between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. With such visual elements within the novel, it is no wonder that it attracts so many interpretations, and David Nixon's production with the Northern Ballet is an ambitious attempt at transforming Fitzgerald's tale onto the stage.
Nixon has choreographed a beautiful ballet, and if you are unsure whether this genre of dance is something you would enjoy I sincerely recommend it. The choreography is influenced by popular dances in the 1920s such as the charleston and the tango, so some may find the performance more accessible than traditional ballet. Furthermore, the costumes transport you to 1920s Long Island New York and as you watch the dancers perform to Rodney Bennett's score you find yourself swept up in an environment that emulates 1920s New York upper class society.
However, there are some problems with the production as it does not quite re-create the emotional response the book continues to achieve today. Nixon has faithfully followed the structure of the novel to the extent that we do not meet Gatsby until the end of Act One, and subsequently the relationship he and Daisy attempt to represent in Act Two is not convincing enough as other plot developments disable the audience's attention to their relationship's development. Nixon does incorporate young versions of Gatsby and Daisy to show how their relationship began, and this helps orientate the audience with regard to plot however, it removes attention from Daisy and Gatsby in the present and consequently the audience become less emotionally attached to their characters.
The most exciting part of the production is the relationship between Myrtle and George Wilson, where the choreography is crafted with emotion that the audience can instantly interpret without any use of flashbacks to guide them. Isaac Lee-Baker is completely mesmerising as George Wilson, and it is a shame that he is not present on stage for a longer duration.
Overall, there are moments in this production that are incredible yet it does not completely translate the literary classic on stage, and perhaps this suggests that no adaption has yet surpassed the prose crafted by Fitzgerald. I shall await Baz Luhrmann's film production to see if I am mistaken.
Words – Nicola Day