The West Australian Ballet and West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s performance of The Great Gatsby is pure elegance. A beautifully talented cast, perfectly minimalist set and—praise be—amazing costumes, made the entire show a pleasure to watch.
Let me first acknowledge choreographer and costume designer David Nixon for the costumes in The Great Gatsby. When I have attended the ballet in the past, it is always a sea of exceptionally, unnecessarily tight men’s tights. So, you can only imagine my pure joy and relief when the show began and all of our beautiful men were dressed in glamorous, silky, three piece suits. I honestly cannot thank you enough for presenting us with these sophisticated, flowy and really roomy pants.
The show boasts an exceptionally diverse cast; while many of the West Australian Ballet’s dancers are local performers, much of the cast hails from different corners of the globe. This provided the audience with slightly different styles of performance as well as a gorgeous, multicultural show. It was truly interesting to see how the dancers performed their characters quite differently. While some dancers were very emotive and theatrical—really acting the part of their character—others seemed more concerned about their technique.
I’m sure we all enjoy seeing such a beautiful ensemble, however it seems the West Australian Ballet relies far too heavily on the audience having to ‘suspend their disbelief’ to compensate for the lack of continuity in casting. Current-day Gatsby and Daisy are performed by Tokyo-born Gakuro Matsui and Chihiro Nomura respectively, and their young counterparts are played by Caucasian dancers Matthew Edwardson and Carina Roberts.
While all four dancers performed their roles with strength and elegance, it was genuinely confusing to have two pairings, so vastly different in physical appearance, supposedly playing the older and younger versions of the same characters. Diversity is great, but it becomes difficult to follow the storyline when old Gatsby and young Gatsby have absolutely nothing in common physically. When performers are being cast as the same characters at different ages in other performing arts, such as film or theatre, they are generally done so with some continuity in appearance.
Though the casting may have been a little questionable, the pure talent displayed on stage by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra was mesmerising. I can honestly say that this is the most entertaining ballet performance I have ever been to, and I think it was because I actually forgot that I was at the ballet. The theatrically styled performance and particularly keen performance of characters made me feel as though I was watching a film. Brooke Widdison-Jacobs’ performance of Jordan Baker was especially captivating. She seemed to present the sassy nature and humour of her character through her wordless performance effortlessly, and that is a true talent.
If you have ever wanted to check out the ballet, but weren’t sure if it was for you, I think The Great Gatsby is a great place to start. The incorporation of much more character acting than I’ve seen at the ballet before and the appropriately loose men’s pants make it a nice ease into the ballet for a novice audience—so go and check it out. Unless of course you enjoy an abundance of visible bulges, then perhaps wait for the upcoming performance of Peter Pan, because it’s bound to have tights galore.
The Great Gatsby is on now until September 30. Reduced ticket prices for under-thirties for Tuesday and Thursday performances.