HANNAH BATEMAN will float serenely around the New Victoria Theatre stage next week as the star of Northern Ballet’s glamorous production of The Great Gatsby.
It’s all a long way from her terrifying first appearance at the Woking theatre, which came back in the 1991 panto Cinderella when she was a small child and the star was Des O’Connor. “Maybe that was where I got the bug for performing,” she says. “I remember it very, very clearly.
It was the first time I had ever danced in dry ice and it was terrifying because we were tiny and it came above our heads so we couldn’t see anything!
“I also remember Des O’Connor was the big star and his girlfriend Jodie (Brooke Wilson) sang I Will Always Love You and it was amazing.”
Hannah is definitely a Woking girl – “born in St Peter’s Hospital, grew up in Horsell and I even remember the shopping centre being built,” she says proudly.
After 12 years with Northern Ballet, she has visited her old home town to dance many times, and says: “We still have loads of friends and family in Woking. I have to catch up with loads of people and I usually go back to my old dance school, Susan Robinson. “I always get invited to watch them and it’s exciting for me – I have to remind myself I’m there for work.”
As for The Great Gatsby, she admits it’s not an obvious dance story, adding: “We’re one of the first companies in the world to do it as a ballet. The text and narrative is really complicated so there was a lot of prep work that went into breaking the book down and picking out the bits that are relevant.
“But the choreography is great and it works brilliantly as a ballet. Also, we lucked out because when we were first promoting it the film with Leonardo Di Caprio came out, so there’s been a real buzz about it and it’s really of the moment and in fashion.”
Hannah says knowing the story – of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby with a secret past and a penchant for lavish parties to cover his loneliness and obsession – may well enhance the experience but is not necessary.
“The costumes are great, there are flapper dresses for the women and suits for the guys, it’s very glamorous,” she says. “There are lots of sequins and tassels. It’s very beautiful to watch – the set is simple but the costumes are very flamboyant.”
While in Woking, Northern Ballet will also be staging a special children’s ballet of the classic fairy tale, Three Little Pigs – choreographed by Hannah.
“It’s aimed at children under five,” she explains. “There’s not a lot of live theatre aimed at children that age, and no ballet. The whole idea is to give them a story they already know and they can have the whole experience of a live performance with professional dancers and live music from the orchestra.
“It’s worked really well and I’m sure the young ballet fans of Woking will love it.”