Director and Choreographer: David Nixon
Music Director: John Pryce-Jones
Reviewer: Lu Greer
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Northern Ballet brings The Nutcracker to the Theatre Royal in Norwich just as the snow has begun falling and the Christmas lights have been switched on.
It tells the story of Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house as the parents invite friends to celebrate and the Children, Clara (Rachael Gillespie) and Frederic (Matthew Koon), enjoy their new toys. Excitement builds as Herr Drosselmeyer (Matthew Topliss) presents the group with wonderful living dolls and Clara with a little nutcracker. A nutcracker which later that night will come to life, become Clara’s prince and take her on a mystical winter journey.
With the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies being one of the most iconic pieces of Christmas music, and one of Tchaikovsky’s most well-known works, the Nutcracker as a whole is one of the quintessential images of Christmas for many people, and as such the audience comes with a lot of expectations. Expectations which the Northern Ballet exceed.
The exceptional work of David Nixon and Charles Cusick Smith on the costumes and sets is particularly clear during the opening scene, when the curtains open on a beautifully decorated Christmas tree overflowing with gifts, and the dancers create a delicate and swirling mass of colour around it. It is during this scene that Dreda Blow, Kevin Poeung and Sebastian Loe are able to show off their abilities when they become Chinese and French dolls, with their movements and precision allowing the audience to forget that they are really watching dancers, not dolls.
Once the audience is transported with the Nutcracker to a magical world, the show truly allows all of the cast and crew to show off what it is they can do. The battle of the dolls and the mice, which includes dancers wearing horse costumes, is both tense and captivating. The snow maidens and the sleigh create a snowy scene that really begins to feel magical. It is the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, though, of course, which is the show-stopping section of this performance thanks to the grace of Lucia Solari.
The chorus, while occasionally a little out of synch, create a scene full of colour and intricate dance which serve as a wonderful backdrop to Rachael Gillespie’s most striking moments as Clara. Alongside Ashley Dixon as the Nutcracker, she allows all of the childlike delight and wonder to be absorbed by the audience.
This is a magical performance from the Northern Ballet, which, with the combination of elaborate sets and costumes, an outstanding orchestra and beautiful dancing allows the audience to be utterly lost in the story. This show will leave you captivated, excited for Christmas, and secretly hoping someone gets you a nutcracker.
Runs until Saturday 28November 2015 | Image: Emma Kauldhar