The Nutcracker

Directed and choreographed by David Nixon
Northern Ballet
The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, and touring
(2011)

The Nutcracker production photo

As Winter hastens upon us, the show to really evoke the warmth and cheer of Christmas is The Nutcracker and David Nixon's production for Northern Ballet is certainly the dose of nostalgia everyone needs this season.

The timeless tale is of young Clara who dreams her nutcracker, a gift from her mysterious and magical Uncle Drosselmeyer, comes to life and takes Clara to a land of fantasy and wonder.

Set in the regency era, the ballet begins at the Edwards' family home. There is much hustle and bustle as the family prepares for Christmas day. The comical scene works brilliantly as it contains much realism, with, for example, Granny fussing so, whilst the children scamper under her feet. Even the maids share a sentimental moment as they too feel the build up of excitement as Christmas approaches.

The pale and muted colours of the period costumes are beautiful and contrast with the vibrancy of those in Act II, so mirroring the overall atmosphere. As the nutcracker comes to life the stage becomes filled with vivid colours and a burst of energy.

Pippa Moore's portrayal of Clara is particularly fitting with her youthful charm and gaiety. Her apparent lightness as she dances is a beautiful quality which many ballerinas strive for but never achieve to this level.

A fantasy world unfolds before Clara's eyes as the Sugar Plum Fairy and friends perform for her in their 'garden of delights'. There is a wonderful display of national dancing with Spanish, Arabian, French and even Russian Cossack dancers. Each national dancer is brimming with joy and passion as they dance to some of the most famous classical music for which the ballet is renowned. The Russian dancers were a personal favourite with their playfulness and mischievous grins as they bounded and leapt around the stage.

The Nutcracker's ultimate highlight was The Waltz of the Flowers. The sheer elegance and beauty of the choreography created a stunning and most memorable piece. The corps performed with such accuracy and devotion maintaining the company's extremely high standards.

The Northern Ballet's Nutcracker is a heart-warming, extravagant affair and is the utmost pleasure to watch. Nixon's diversity in choreography ensures there is never a dull moment. The creative team have done an outstanding job; the costumes have been made with such attention to detail and really bring life to the performance. The lavish set created by Charles Cusick Smith captures the scene of the story perfectly, and the effects have the stage shimmering with Christmas sparkle.

This is a wonderful production of The Nutcracker which would endow anyone - even Scrooge! - with the spirit of Christmas.

"The Nutcracker" tour to Bradford, Alhambra Theatre (8th - 12th November), Newcastle Theatre Royal (15th - 19th November) and Manchester Opera House (22nd - 26th November).

Reviewer: Joanna Burden