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Northern Ballet - The Great Gatsby, Spring 2013


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I was at the World Premiere of Northern Ballet's Great Gatsby in Leeds on Saturday evening (2nd March).  It is glorious!

 

David Nixon and co-director Patricia Doyle have taken crucial scenes from the book and linked them together with the parties.

 

To give us a hint of how Gatsby first new Daisy and how he acquired his fortune, Nixon has used the "Young Gatsby and Daisy" concept which works very well.  At the premiere these roles were danced by the deft and expressive Jeremy Curnier and the beautiful Michela Paolacci.

 

Giuliano Contadini brings Nick Carraway to life exactly the way I had imagined him from reading the book - another great actor/dancer in this company.

 

In the book, Gatsby does not attend his own parties but observes them through a window.  David Nixon has been very clever with the Gatsby parties because although Gatsby is there he is a lone brooding figure that conveys a sense of otherworldliness as the party goes on around him.

 

The main characters are introduced throughout act 1 and there is some great ensemble work.  When Nick goes to see Daisy it is obvious that there are "undercurrents" in the marriage of Tom and Daisy.  It is no surprise when Tom dashes off with Nick to meet Myrtle at her pied-a-terre.  The party scene in the flat is both fun and ultimately shocking as Tom lashes out at Myrtle.  There is a passionate making up between them.  Kenneth Tindall was absolutely subsumed into the complex character of Tom, I believe that he truly loved Myrtle.  Vicky Sibson was sensational as Myrtle - sensuous and troubled by her relationship with husband George.  Did she love Tom or was she entranced by the possibility of escape from the drudgery of her life with George?

 

The Gatsby party scene in Act 1 is based around the charleston and is energetic and entertaining.  Nick has met up with Jordan, beautifully portrayed by Hannah Bateman.  At the end of the act Gatsby has manoeuvred Nick into arranging his meeting with Daisy.  They have a trio before Nick wanders off.  The act finishes with a ravishingly beautiful duet for Daisy and Gatsby.   One of David Nixon's main talents is his ability to use stillness within the dance.  There is a real heartstopping, spine-tingling moment when Gatsby and Daisy are just gazing into each other's eyes for what seems an eternity.  Martha Leebolt is fabulous as ditzy blonde Daisy.

 

Act 2 is somewhat darker in tone and the main party scene is based around the tango - wow!  Gatsby has invited Daisy and Tom and manages to be alone with Daisy where they reminicse about old times. 

 

Myrtle's death is very cleverly portrayed.  Ben Mitchell is a tortured George Wilson - his choreography has a very modern contemporary feel. I felt his pain where he realised he was losing Myrtle but didn't know why and didn't know what to do about it.

 

Nick and Gatsby have a long heart to heart as Gatsby tells him about his past (using young Gatsby and Daisy) and they say their final farewells.  Gatsby reflects more after Nick has gone and is resigned to his fate.......

 

I can't even begin to describe the overwhelming presence of Toby Batley as Gatsby.  His characterisation is intelligent, multi-layered and truly outstanding - a real tour de force.

 

As we have come to expect from Northern Ballet the set and costumes are absolutely ravishing.  Jerome Kaplan has given us a set of elegance and simplicity that gives a hint of the time period.  Moving screens are used to sketch in the different locations. Tim Mitchell is, IMHO a lighting genius.  On Friday Friends of NB watched the dress rehearsal from the upper levels of the theatre and the lighting is incredibly beautiful from afar (and just as effective from my more normal position in the front stalls).

 

David Nixon and Northern Ballet have given us a stylish and elegant production that has all the crucial undertones of the story and is filled with believable characters.  I am very much looking forward to seeing more performances throughout the tour.

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Looks like Press night was last night after all - more links in the morning roundup, I promise.  (Donald Hutera may have had to go on Opening Night as I wouldn't mind betting that his copy for the Sunday Times 'Culture' supplement had to be submitted before last night.)  Nobody hates it - the challenge has been in transforming a very literary novel into dance.

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As Donald Hutera's review will probably be behind the paywall here are some tweets he made on Sunday.

 

Donald Hutera
@DonaldHutera


Literature into dance can work: @northernballet's Great Gatsby is absorbing, stylish, surprisingly complex, strongly cast, sharply danced.

 

Only rarely does @northernballet's Great Gatbsy veer into kitsch. For the most part this is a sensitive, nuanced jazz-age ballet adaptation.

 

My top marks in @northernballet's Great Gatsby to Victoria Sibson's vulgar vivacious party animal Myrtle: sensational & sympathetic.

 

Vicky Sibson = best-dressed @northernballet's post-preme Gatsby do in vintage green burlesque dress + beaded hat hand-made by D Goldsmith!

 

 

I've got to agree with him about Vicky Sibson - she looked incredibly glamorous at the post-preme do.

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I like Donald Hutera but Twitter can be deceptive and ultimatly critics like to feel judged by their full review with positives and negatives. Be interesting to see if he gives the 3 star average mark that Judith Mackrell has.
 

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I was at the matinee yesterday and saw one of the alternate casts. 

 

Javier Torres, as Gatsby, proved that he is a wonderful actor and has tremendous charisma.  His Daisy was Dreda Blow who was just sublime as the ditzy Daisy.  John Hull was great as Tom and Jessica Morgan was superbly sultry as Myrtle.  Isaac Lee Baker was truly outstanding as George Wilson.  In his scenes with Jessica Morgan I thought the stage was going to spontaneously combust!

 

This production is a great, imaginative realisation of the book and a visual feast.  Go see it!

 

There is a nice feature in Vogue:  http://www.vogue.co.uk/blogs/the-culture-edit/2013/03/the-great-gatsby-ballet---the-northern-ballet-david-nixon-interview

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  • 3 weeks later...

I saw two terrific performances of Great Gatsby in Hull yesterday.

 

I must say that the acoustics in Hull New Theatre seem terrific and the orchestra sounded not only fabulous (as usual) but also enormous. 

 

In the evening we saw the cast led by Javier Torres and Dreda Blow.  All the leading dancers in this cast have deepened their interpretation and it was just terrific from beginning to end!

 

We saw a debut cast in the afternoon.  Giuliano Contadini was Gatsby with Julie Charlet as his Daisy - wow.  Julie is a fearless dancer with a dangerous edge and their duets were spine tingling.  Thomas Aragones and Luisa Rocco were delightful as Young Gatsby and Daisy.  Goodness me, Javier Torres really brought out the near-seediness of Tom Buchanan - very possessive of Daisy but showing his hypocrisy by having a mistress.  Hannah Bateman gave an intelligent reading of the role of Myrtle - she was both sensual and obviously trying to better herself.  Ashley Dixon was superb as Nick Carraway - brilliant acting and a joy to watch his lovely soft leaps full of ballon.  Ben Mitchell was utterly fabulous as George.  A tremendous performance!

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  • 2 weeks later...

On the first stop of my ballet-watching mini marathon, I saw Thursday's Great Gatsby matinee and I am so glad I broke my journey to see it.  It was the fourth cast I had seen, led by Ashley Dixon as Gatsby.

 

I've always enjoyed Ashley's performances and this was no exception - beautifully acted and danced.  His Daisy was Pippa Moore, who was a delight in the role - a ditzy blonde with an unhappy marriage.  Tom was danced by Hiro Takahashi who was very subtle and intelligent in his portrayal - his indifferent possessiveness towards Daisy and his love towards Myrtle.  In fact his obvious tenderness for Myrtle made the violence of when he lashed out at her all the more shocking.  Michela Paolacci was terrific as Jordan.  Sebastian Loe is taller than the other dancers I have seen in the role of George and the choreography looked quite different and almost languid on him.  His Myrtle was a gloriously on-form Lori Gilchrist; her dancing was just beautiful and she was really sultry.  Kevin Poeung was a brilliant Nick - such a wonderful dancer.  Ben Mitchell and Antoinette Brookes-Daw completed the major characters as Young Gatsby and Young Daisy.

 

NB are now six weeks into the run of Gatsby and have really grown into it.  The parties are such fun that you feel as though you want to get up and join in.  It really is a super production. 

Edited by Janet McNulty
Edited to add a sentence
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Great Gatsby is in Cardiff this week.

 

Here's a review:  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/review-great-gatsby-new-theatre-3000762

 

"But then later, when Gatsby shows Daisy his home, their reflections swell and shrink in the glass of huge windows – exquisite to watch – and suggest that the two are hopelessly lost to one another."

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I saw this production on the last evening in Edinburgh but I'm only now getting round to posting about it now that I've joined this board.

 

I thought it was exquisitely put together and an extremely moving performance. I did hear a few comments about it being hard to follow though I don't feel I can comment given I'd previously read the book.

 

I'm seeing it again at SW in London and am looking forward to seeing how it has progressed even in a short few months.

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Hi Aileen,

 

Thank you so much for your reminder!

I booked Upper circle ticket for Saturday afternoon performance at Sadler's Wells.

 

I booked tickets for Friday evening and 2 shows on Saturday. 

I hope I will be able to see 3 different casts of my choice. (Batley /Leebolt /Contadini / Tindall + Torres /Blow /Takahashi / Hull + Dixon / Moore / Poeung / Takahashi)

However I feel so insecure about I may not be able to see some of above mentioned casts.

 

I am a Big Fan of Northern Ballet.

Therefore I can not schedule myself When / What time (exactly) I should see performances.

The company let us know the casting at very last minute!!!

 

Is anyone else frustrated as much as I am?

 

 

Hi Janet,

 

This is my 1st time to see NB at Sadler's Wells.

Performances by NB at Sadler's Wells normally become sold out?

 

Best regards,

 

Ryo

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Hi Ryo,

 

I think this is a first in recent years.  They usually seem to sell well but usually last minute and not necessarily full houses.  I think it is fantastic news for the company.

 

I have learned over the years that there is no point in worrying about casting.  Until recently casting was never published up front so that is something new.  The thing with a production like Gatsby is that most of the company appear in each production no matter in how small a role.  One minute Toby is Gatsby, the next he is a gangster and in Myrtle's party scene (for which he definitely deserves an Oscar!).  If anyone is unable to perform for any reason then the casting can be affected at the last minute and that can throw everything out.

 

I know this is a problem with the other companies too but NB have got fewer dancers to work around.

 

I hope you enjoy and will report back.  Sadly I can't come to Sadler's Wells this time - there's nothing like the buzz you experience in a full house.  Mind you, I am in Norwich this weekend!

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Hi Janet,

 

Thank you so much for you to let me know the detailed information of NB in London!

Very much obliged!!

 

Have a Great Time with NB in Norwich!

(I was in Cardiff last Thursday afternoon by the way)

 

Ryo

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I can't believe I have seen my last performance of the current run of Great Gatsby.  I am already suffering from withdrawal symptoms!

 

We saw three outstanding performances by two casts in Norwich over the weekend (Ashley Dixon's cast and Javier Torres cast).

 

Yet again, I admired the way David Nixon choreographs stillness so effectively.  The moment when Gatsby sees Daisy in Nick's home is just spine-tingling.  There are also some wonderfully quiet moments in the main duets between Gatsby and Daisy that really add to the build up of the tension of the romance.

 

Yet again, I wanted to leap up and join in with the parties.  The whole company look as though they are having a ball and they have all built their own characters within the setting and the choreography.

 

I know there is Sadler's Wells week to go but sadly I cannot be there so I would just like to say that I hope this wonderful production is soon back in the repertoire.

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I took DD, her friend and her dance teacher to see this in Norwich on Friday night

 

It was amazing!

 

It was also fascinating to listen to the 2 girls working out the story...DD & her friend were very confused by it all and a bit shocked by the morals (which pleased me tbh) - they had a much better understanding than I did of the story as told by the dance and picked up on things I had missed (I 'sort of' know the story) - but their reasoning was hilarious

 

The costumes were very clever; the low waist implied but leaving them able to dance!

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