Ballet companies really have their work cut out when it comes to taking well-known written works to the stage.
And there has clearly been a great deal of work involved in the production of the Northern Ballet’s new piece, The Great Gatsby, which I was lucky enough to see last night at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Audiences seeing this production will no doubt include keen ballet fans eager to enjoy top class choreography and dancing skills, as well as fans of the original F Scott Fitzgerald novel who want to see the story faithfully told and acted...without any words being spoken.
I am not a huge lover of ballet but even I could see that this production is truly brilliant.
Right from the beginning, the atmosphere of the roaring ‘20s is captured, as a story unfolds about Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire with a penchant for lavish parties.
Jay’s world of glamour goes hand in hand with a murky backdrop of gangster activity, but his mind is clearly caught up with rekindling his former romance with lost love Daisy.
While Daisy tries to resist Gatsby’s advances, her own husband Tom has an affair with Myrtle, party girl and discontented wife of mechanic George Wilson.
The dancing and choreography were superb from start to finish.
Each scene was choreographed to a score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, filled with jazz and blues influences as well as the kind of suspense-filled orchestral stylings typical of film scores.
The choreography was at times full of ‘20s influences, for example in a scene when the Charleston is blended with ballet moves and danced at a party. But at moments, there are unadulterated ballet steps effectively used to express the passionate relationships and love triangles played out on stage.
Despite being a story full of fun-filled scenes of parties and glamorous outfits, the music and choreography help to hint at a more sinister background of violence and infidelity.
My favourite scenes involved the interplay between the irrepressible Myrtle (played by Victoria Sibson) and mechanic husband George (Benjamin Mitchell). I loved the choreography in one particular scene when Benjamin dances with a tyre.
Both Victoria and Benjamin are extraordinarily expressive in one of the second act scenes, in which Myrtle and George’s marital problems are battled out, with tragic consequences.
Skilful performances are also produced by Giuliano Contadini as Nick, Tobias Batley as Gatsby and Martha Leebolt as Daisy.
The Great Gatsby will be performed at Milton Keynes Theatre up to and including Saturday. See www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes