Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Director: David Nixon
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
To mark the festive season of shows at the Leeds Grand Theatre, Northern Ballet brings its much loved The Nutcracker. This 2007 version has been especially refreshed for one to appreciate and love this classical ballet even more. It certainly has a modern feel but does not compromise at all the classical elements The Nutcracker is renowned for.
The Nutcracker is set in the Regency Era at the height of the Enlightenment and Romanticism period, late 18th Century/early 19th Century, and when traditions intertwined with the contemporary. It is based on E T A’s Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and over the years the story has been interpreted into a number of different versions specifically with a focus on dark and psychological themes. The Nutcracker has always been associated with Christmas – hence why David Nixon chooses to keep the keep the story classically simple and obviously works well with Tchaikovsky’s renowned score. This is certainly the best choice as it will appeal to many of all ages and empowers a person to dream and wish, echoing the spirit of Christmas.
The audience is invited to join the Edwards family’s Christmas party and they are introduced to Clara, a young girl, who dreams of wonderful things and is given the Nutcracker doll. Clara’s wish is for the Nutcracker to come to life and unknown to her, Uncle Drosselmeyer casts his magic and she is transported to a battle between the life-size Nutcracker and the Mouse King and then she joins the Nutcracker Prince in an enchanting winter wonderland of snow and they ride across the clouds to a diverse and unknown Far East.
The first act has a traditional narrative focus which creates the mood and is delivered beautifully by Rachel Gillespie (Clara), Mlindi Kulashe (Herr Drosselmeyer) and Ashley Dixon (The Nutcracker Prince). Charles Cusick Smith’s sets and staging are colourfully stunning and complement very well with both Mark Jonathan’s lighting and Nixon’s costumes.
The second act focuses thoroughly on individualism and expression with the emphasis of the memorable pas de deuces particularly from the Sugar Plum Fairy (Minju Kang) and her Cavalier (Javier Torres) which aligns familiarity. To keep in line with the Romanticism era, with its relationship with the exotic and unknown, there are individual and collective divertive dance scenes and intricate movements from the Arabian Princesses, Russian Cossacks and French ballerinas (dancers from Northern Ballet). Notably, there is the new solo Spanish dance which has been commissioned specially for this production and Kevin Poeung performs this remarkably well.
Tchaikovsky’s incredible score is thoroughly appreciated in this production and is performed, under the arrangement of Daniel Parkinson, by the Northern Sinfonia. Northern Ballet must take pride with their excellent performance in The Nutcracker as every member of the company, including Academy of Northern Ballet, perform magnificently in interpreting this story of dreams and fantasies with Nixon’s ingeniously creative direction and choreography. Every dancer stands out and there are so many positive superlatives about this performance. Many will remember this exceptional and unforgettable production that empowers everyone to be enchanted and transported with a ballet of dreams. Indeed a festive success!
Reviewed on 4 December 2018 | Image: Emma Kauldhar