The stage is set, the audience is slowly filling up and lights adorn each tier of the Royal Albert Hall. All of a sudden you have a packed theatre, excitement bubbling in the air as everyone waits for the performance to begin. It feels a bit like the night before Christmas when you can’t sleep because you’re too excited to open all the presents to come…
The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker’ is indeed a very special present. Choreographed by Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov and Vincent Redmon, it is very polished performance that uses grand costumes and moments of technology which enhance atmosphere but never detract from the beauty of the ballet itself which is at the heart of the production. Divided into two Acts, the show tells the familiar and well-loved story of two children named Clara and Fritz Stahlbaum who are given some very magical dolls by their godfather Herr Drosselmeyer for Christmas; Clara’s gift is of course the titular ‘Nutcracker’.
The first act sets up the festive mood. We see three generations of the Stahlbaum family dancing and enjoying the Christmas celebrations which mirrored the multigenerational audience also clearly enjoying itself. We quickly fall in love with the characters, Fritz the typically mischievous little boy eager to steal his sister’s doll and Clara, our calm and likable heroine. Our introduction to the Rat King whose entrance on stage is accompanied with dramatic lighting and impressive costume design shifts the mood of the act into one of action and tension. This culminates in the battle between Rat King and Nutcracker which is visually so well executed as an audience you forget how difficult it must be for the dancers to perform such technically difficult choreography in such large masks and headgear.
While the first act contained most of the drama, the second act delivered all the famous crowd-pleasing moments. As an audience we got to travel the world as dolls performed their national dances beginning in Spain where a trio performed elegant flamenco influenced movements which were highly animated and fun. Then we moved onto Egypt where a highly skilled quartet moved in sync with one another delivering intricate lifts whilst preserving a sultry serious mood. We were then off to Asia first with the Chinese duo and then the Russian Dance. Both complete with so many jumps that it wowed the audience into instant applause. The highlight of the evening was of course pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince and their following solos. Set to the most recognisable pieces from the Tchaikovsky score both dancers showed extreme stamina and extraordinary skills at their completion of the arduous choreography. The audience left gasping in particular at the Sugar Plum Fairy’s continuous pirouettes.
The performance ended with a beautifully lit Christmas tree and a sleeping Clara underneath. The whole of the Royal Albert hall was buzzing with festive cheer at what had been the perfect holiday treat!
Saturday 28 December -Tuesday 31 December 2019
Starts: 12.00 pm, 4.00 pm
review by Tanya Kovatchka, art student, aged 20