Review: The Nutcracker. Northern Ballet. Nottingham Theatre Royal

The Nutcracker at Theatre Royal Nottingham

An exquisite display of motion and music

There’s nothing like walking in from the freshly lit up city to the sounds of an orchestra tuning and a vision of projected snow falling gently down the stage curtain to bring upon the festive feelings – especially when the show is as tightly associated with Christmas tradition as Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

This stunning Northern Ballet production, directed and choreographed by David Nixon, follows young Clara (Rachael Gillespie) who is gifted a nutcracker by her mysteriously enigmatic Uncle Drosselmeyer (Mlindi Kulashe). Overnight it comes to life and the Nutcracker Prince takes Clara on a magnificent adventure, meeting an assortment of characters including the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy (Saeka Shirai).

Those who fear losing track of the story without dialogue to follow needn’t worry. As a touring theatre-ballet company, every cast member is committed to the story. The vivid expression in their movement and faces, smiles beaming to the rafters, combined with Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score brought to life by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Jonathan Lo,  means you’ll retain a sense of the narrative even if you miss a few details.

With so much going on within the opening sequences it can be tricky to focus on any individual dancers, so it’s best to succumb to their graceful synchronicity and enjoy the mesmerising experience of the group numbers.

On the topic of details, Charles Cusick Smith’s set is exemplary, evolving with every scene. Trees expanding, castles appearing, snow falling… these continuous set changes escalate the production without overshadowing the dance.

Kim Brassley as head of wardrobe is responsible for just as many oohs from the audience with period costumes quickly making way for tulle and glitter with some astonishing quick changes. The snowflakes and Sugar Plum Fairy are particularly lovely. While the rat head is rather haunting with its lack of eyes, the baby mice are adorable prancing in their furry costumes.

Rachael Gillespie is precious as Clara, her childlike wonderment restoring Christmas spirit to the most cynical of audience members, while Saeka Shirai is enchanting as the Sugar Plum Fairy, captivating with every twirl.

All the behind the scene work and talent on stage (and beneath it from the orchestra) really comes together to create a dreamlike ethereal essence.

The production is refreshingly unpretentious – I doubt Tchaikovsky predicted the Mouse King flossing – and utterly charming.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see The Nutcracker at Theatre Royal Nottingham this week; book tickets here

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