Not that its slightly slimmed down scale takes away from the magic of this most Christmas-y of all Christmas ballets; on the contrary, Northern Ballet’s production, with choreography, direction, and costumes by its former veteran director, David Nixon, danced to live music played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, is full of charm and quirky detail.
Charles Cusick Smith’s sets place the action in a Regency interior for Act I, and in an ornate theatre for Act II. Original lighting design by Mark Jonathan managed for touring by Alastair West creates moments of dreamy magic.
And, of course, the production uses Tchaikovsky’s glorious score, such a key part of this particular Christmas package.
Nixon follows the basics of the story: at the Christmas party in the Edwards home, the child Clara is given a nutcracker doll by Uncle Drosselmeyer. This young Clara has an older sister, Louisa, who in the final Act transmogrifies into The Sugar Plum Fairy – and why not, because the ballet makes it very clear that everything that happens on Christmas night is Clara's dream.
The ballet keeps the battle between the Mouse Army, led by the Mouse King, and the soldiers led by the Nutcracker; and the latter's transformation into a handsome prince who escorts Clara to Uncle Drosselmeyer’s magical theatre, where they watch a series of divertissements, culminating in the famous Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux.
Among the quirky touches that made this production so special was the campest Mouse King we’ve ever seen on stage (Andrew Tomlinson) wagging his backside to the beat of the music and swinging his overlong tail. He was hilarious, rather than scary, which suits an audience such as the one of which Culture Whisper as a part, peopled mostly by small children.
Also totally endearing was that the majority of the Mouse King’s army were small students from a local dance school, who mercifully are not killed in battle but leave the stage in a mournful procession following their defeated leader.
The second Act takes place not in the Kingdom of the Sweets, has happens in other productions, but in a theatre where the usual divertissements are compered by Uncle Drosselmeyer.
In the performance we attended, Northern Ballet presented two absolutely delightful leading pairs: Clara (Kirica Takahashi) and the Nutcracker Prince (George Liang) were playful, light-footed, making short work of the choreographic demands; as the Sugar Plum Fairy Sarah Chun was a marvel to watch: technically proficient, very musical, her movement drinking from every last note of the score. Chun was ably partnered by the athletic Mlindi Kulashe as her dashing Cavalier.
Was everything perfect? No, of course not. But is Northern Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker worth catching it if comes anywhere near you? Absolutely!
Details and dates of Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker tour here
|What||Northern Ballet, The Nutcracker on Tour Review|
|Where||New Victoria Theatre, Woking, The Ambassadors, The Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ | MAP|
10 Nov 22 – 12 Nov 22, 19:30 Sat mat at 14:30 Dur.: 1 hour 52 mins inc intervals
|Website||Click here to book|