The Nutcracker – Birmingham Hippodrome

Music:  Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Choreographers: Sir Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov and Vincent Redmon

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Embedded in Birmingham’s ballet advent season for the past 26 years, this captivating explosion of magical movement –  Sir Peter Wright’s production of The Nutcracker – remains an evergreen, deliriously romantic and enchanting delight.

It was a truth universally acknowledged, mid-1960s, that an intellectual was one whom could smugly listen to the William Tell Overture whilst not being reminded of the TV horse-opera, The Lone Ranger. Those of that generation here tonight face a similar cognitive dissonance – will they be able to put aside Frank Muir’s lispy 70s Everyone’s a Fruit and Nut case TV advert jingle? They know the one and will shamelessly YouTube it immediately back home.

Moreover, given characters listed in the libretto feature fire-hearth spawned dancing daemon mice, marching tin soldiers and an animated Christmas tree with the attitude of an egotistical Ent, the free availability of recreational substances in the 60s might shed light on tonight’s phantasmagoria – scoffing sugar-sprinkled plums fairly often, of course.

Anticipating this Plum Fairy sugar-rush of dizzying spectacle and sound, the overture’s riotous screen curtain heralds a startled tin soldier flanked by a Commedia dell’arte golden sun and moon tableau. A motif that resonates throughout the performance. John Macfarlane’s design concept is a Faustian packed feast of Seven Deadly Sin eye gluttony.

The luxuriant set Christmas Eve festivities demonstrate Birmingham Royal Ballet’s exuberant commitment to their emergent young practitioners’ talent; they invigorate and tickle this inclusive Corps de ballet with witty vigour and boisterous naturalism. Artistic Director, David Bintley, ever allows trusted hands to juggle dangerously.

Set piece spectaculars remain firmly in the repertoire with Clara’s magical flying goose-swoop amidst the crescent moon-lit skies. The imperial splendour of the Piranesi-inspired forced perspective colonnades is sumptuously complemented by luscious, pink-flamingo-hued tutus. The decadently adroit Arabian Dance sequence is near beyond the bounds of exotic, erotic credibility: pungent and punchy, Yvette Knight becomes the impossible dream-spiced girl. Sinfully sensuous indeed – with sinuous curves and swerves she Baroques the kasbah.

There should be a law passed allowing every child alive free passage to have their imaginations and hopes fired in the cauldron of this wickedly magicked fantasia. Set the mind-phasers to be maximum stunned.

Runs until 13 December 2017 | Image: Bill Cooper

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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