London

Dance review: The Great Gatsby at Sadler's Wells: The Roaring Twenties, by the book

4.00

 

You can't fault Northern Ballet for timing, as its new stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby drops on London the same week as Baz Luhrmann's film remake is shown in Cannes. The first night even mustered a red carpet and a posse of paparazzi at the door. But what works on stage is not what works on screen. There can be no panoramic camerawork to establish Jay Gatsby's palatial estate, no text with which to convey "the exhilarating ripple" of Daisy Buchanan's voice. What's more, the characters must identify themselves without being named. So, it's a credit to David Nixon as both director and choreographer that he not only succeeds in telling the story clearly, and pacily, but with a depth of visual detail that sends you scurrying back to F Scott Fitzgerald's prose to verify the exact descriptive phrase. And it's all there. For once, no one goes home muttering "that's not how I remember the book".

Jerome Kaplan's sets are both beautiful and ingenious, flipping between Nick Carraway's cottage, Gatsby's mansion, the Wilsons' garage and Tom Buchanan's city love-nest, even suggesting busy Manhattan sidewalks with the minimum of fuss. Tim Mitchell's lighting largely forgoes Roaring Twenties glitter in favour of the sepia shadows of Edward Hopper paintings – an interesting idea that downplays the director's own frock designs.

Less convincing is the patchwork of film music by the late Richard Rodney Bennett, so far-ranging in style that it lacks coherence. The jazzy stuff is fun, but the love themes are pure syrup, and the use of the theme-tune from Murder on the Orient Express triggers false associations. The composer's more bracing avant-garde voice ratchets up the tension in the drama's second half, but overall the music feels piecemeal.

Gatsby's lavish parties might seem a gift to a choreographer. Nixon duly delivers a lively Charleston, and the curious Maxixe, in which both partners bend forward, thrusting out their bottoms. There are virtuoso hijinx for a dapper male trio, bouncing off tables. But in spirit these orderly scenes barely nod to the bacchic mayhem that propelled the Jazz Age towards the Wall Street Crash.

As the flighty Daisy, Martha Leebolt is limited by one-note choreography. And for all Tobias Batley's blank-cheque elegance as Gatsby, he doesn't convince as a man of mystery. It's Kenneth Tindall's burly, brutish Tom Buchanan who generates real tension on stage, and the scene where he slugs his mistress, Victoria Sibson's coarse, venal Myrtle, provides the gear-change the production needs in order to hurtle towards its shocking conclusion.

This Gatsby is a steady shot at an obscure target, and as such is a worthy alternative to the film.

Critic's Choice

To be realistic, there can’t be many chances left to see the great Sylvie Guillem perform, mesmerising as she is at 48. So catch the return of 6000 miles away, the triple bill she mounted in 2011 as a benefit for post-earthquake Japan. It includes solos and duets by Mats Ek, William Forsythe and Jiri Kylian. At Sadler’s Wells, London (Mon to Sat).

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz