reviewed at the Norwich Theatre Royal on 21 November
It’s a popular ballet at this time of year, the story of a Christmas festivity with many layers of meaning. It’s also a ballet of two acts which is notoriously difficult to fit nto an over-arching cohesion.
Act One is all story, with dancing. Act Two can then seem like a succession of divertissements with little relationship to what has gone before. David Nixon’s Northern Ballet binds the two acts more closely than many productions.
Here Clara (Rachael Gillespie) is a teenager not much junior to her sister Louise (Minju Kang). So she dances en pointe throughout, distancing herself from the younger members of the Edwards family’s party.
The period is Regency and the place is England. That allows for uncle Drosselmeyer (Mlindi Kulashe) to conjure up an orientalist fantasy world both at the party and in the gardens beyond the clouds. Louise and her suitor James (Javier Torres) fit into this quite logically as the Sugar-Plum fairy and her cavalier.
Some of the costumes have been redesigned for this revival; the whole production looks fresh. Dixon melds his own choreography with some of Ivanov’s original set pieces, but the joins are scarcely discernible.
Gillespie gives us a credible portrait of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, suggesting the tentativeness of that transitional state. She becomes the focus of the dance as well as the drama in Act Two, one which Kang and Torres don’t quite manage to defeat.
There’s a dash of the Lord of Misrule about Kulashe, whether displaying the animated dolls (Kyungka Kwak, Jonathan Hanks and Riku Ito) from his cabinet of curiosities or launching Clare and Ashley Dixon’s Nutcracker prince on their fantasy journey.
Kevin Poeung, Adam Ashcroft, Nina Queiroz da Silva, Gavin McCraig, Abigail Prudames, Conner Jordan-Collins, Harris Beattie and George Liang all do well with the national and character dances. There a real sense of ensemble in the corps de ballet.
Four star rating.
The Nutcracker runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal until 24 November with matinées on 22 and 24 November.