Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****
When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, he captured a lot of things, but two in particular: the brief, warless abandonment of 1920s New York and the all-consuming fervor of falling in love. Jay Gatsby does it twice, with the same woman – for although the flame never goes out, the re-ignition when he and Daisy reunite is an echo of their first fall.
For us to buy into Fitzgerald’s novel, both of these aspects had to feel authentic and finely sketched – and choreographer David Nixon does exactly the same here. With every pas de deux, the love between Jay and Daisy is nothing short of an ocean deep. Nixon’s decision to portray the couple at both points in time throughout the ballet is a stroke of genius – the sweet warmth of young love showed up for the more mature Jay and Daisy.
As for the carefree frivolity of a booming metropolis, it’s here too. Stunning costumes (also designed by the talented Nixon) and powerful music by Richard Rodney Bennett performed with incredible aplomb by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia help the show take flight. Lively parties and bustling streets are allowed to breathe against simple yet adaptable decor.
But what is perhaps most impressive here is the quality of the dancing. Remarkably, given the discontinuous nature of the past two years, Northern Ballet has never looked better. Each step is delivered with absolute conviction, each high leg stretched to perfection. In a cast overflowing with talent, special mention for Riku Ito who does not just dance, he exists in movement. Every jump, turn and landing feels so easy, it’s like it’s what his body was born to do.
After 21 years at the helm, David Nixon leaves Northern Ballet this week, in incredible shape that is most definitely his fault.