From the tips of fluttering snowflake fingers and gnarly rat’s claws, right down to the sturdy soldier boot, Peter Wright’s production of the Nutcracker is a divine accomplishment.
Described as the perfect Christmas ballet, Wright’s production incorporates all the twinkle and ecstatic joy expected this time of year; the living room is set with Christmas tree in place, the guests are filing into all kinds of spaces, impressively designed by John F. Macfarlane. And actually the design, in both set and costume, is something that nearly took my eye off the ballet itself, being so elaborate and brash, yet breathtakingly clever in its features and manoeuvres from scene to scene.
Clara, family and guests move fluently in various dances to Tchaikovsky’s triumphant Act I score as if it were Christmas already, which is just the kind of enthusiasm you’d want from something so seasonal. Clara, danced by Arancha Baselga, a soloist of BRB that is so enchanting to watch amidst the older and younger guests. The appearance of children from the Elmhurst school of dance received great praise from the audience also.
Commendable performances from Yijing Zhang as Clara’s mother and the charismatic Grandfather, Michael O’Hare and Grandmother Jade Heusen. Yet Drosselmeyer, danced by Rory Mackay, and his Assistant, danced by Kit Holder, are a pair to behold. Quirky and very sure in their movements, these two enter the party scene in order to ensnare not only their audience in the onstage living room, but also the audience off stage too.
After the party has calmed, the night before Christmas is interrupted by a sleepless Clara entering the living room to find her beloved Nutcracker. Midnight strikes and Macfarlane takes us on a whirlwind of effects. As the room shrinks around Clara, the Christmas tree is exchanged for larger branches of itself, toy soldiers become real and the fireplace reveals its dark and terrifying entrance to King Rat and his motley crew!
Kit Holder changes from Magician Assistant in the previous scene, leaping and flowing in expressive movement to present scene Nutcracker, brandishing sword and charging toward King Rat in order to claim back his Kingdom. The majority of dancers in this dance battle are artists of BRB and did a particularly wonderful job of creating credible movement as both soldiers and rats alike.
Successful in their fight against King Rat, Clara revives the Nutcracker to his princely form and their pas de deux reveals a wonderful moment between them both. This is also highlighted by the change in scene to the Land of Snow, with mesmerising set design and costume again, Baselga and now Mathias Dingman as the Prince move elegantly about the falling snowflakes, performed by Artists of BRB in stunning white and grey feathery tulle tutu’s as light and airy as snowflakes themselves.
Act II enters Clara flying towards a world that Drosselmeyer majestically presents in the walls of a grand palace. From a sassy Spanish dance, Samara Downs dancing with great expression, to the popular Russian dance with exuberant leaps and jumps of the Trepak which are fantastically danced by Feargus Campbell, Mitsuru Ito and Lorenzo Trosello. And of course the Grand pas de deux between Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince is as delightful and engaging as a dance between a Fairy and a Prince should be.
All this magic aside, Clara returns to reality and is so grateful for the wonder of it all. And so are we as audience. In fact the spectacle of the Nutcracker story originates in its ability to appear timeless through re-imagination, and this production by Wright deserves that title without doubt.
- By Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Production: Sir Peter Wright
- Cast includes: Arancha Baselga and Mathias Dingman
- Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham
- Until 13 December 2015
- Review by Olivia Markham
- 28 November 2015