Ballet isn't for everyone: many folk are put off by the idea of people mutely dancing in tights to orchestral music, not to mention the childhood threat of TuTus which haunt generations of British school girls.
However, the Northern Ballet Theatre production of The Nutcracker was extremely entertaining, even for the ballet-wary. On the opening night of their tour, Nottingham received NBT warmly with a packed house who were eagerly settled in to watch a classical tale, lights start to caress the “wall” of the fairy tale stone house with gently falling snowflakes and the night suddenly draws in.
Pippa Moore, playing Clara, is a believable innocent young girl who becomes infatuated with her new nutcracker doll, given her by her mysterious (and decidely camp) uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer, played by Darren Goldsmith. There is something fairly disturbing about the magical uncle, whose appearance and exaggerated dancing take the audience through Clara’s story. And of course, the Nutcracker Prince, danced by Ashley Dixon, a lovely counterpart to Clara with smooth and muscular dancing crisply contrasting with Clara's gentle, graceful forms.
The costumes were all classical: the men in tight breeches and cravats with ornate waistcoats, the women in empire waist and flowing gowns. Clara, of course, spends most of her time on stage in what is essentially a fancy nightie, her hair in pigtails as she traverses dreamland with her toys. The costumes were not typical ballet dress, as they were more related to the story than to the classical ballet attire of white uniforms, making it a bit more theatre than ballet, and thereby drawing the audience into the feeling of being in a land of Christmas toys and sweets.
Grandma and Grandpa Edwards, played by Victoria Sibson and Tobias Batley, came very near to stealing the show with their antics before young Pippa begins her journey, and it can easily be said that had they more stage time, they would have done so. They performed their function as gentle, humorous foils exceptionally well.
The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, danced by Julie Charlet and John Hull, brought home the beauty of the love story overall, with their superb dancing and the easy chemistry between them as they glided through the story, surrounding the audience in the magic of love in the depths of winter.
Led by Conductor John Pryce-Jones and Associate Director Yoko Ichino, this is a superb version of the classic tale of The Nutcracker, they really live up to the Theatre part of the Northern Ballet name. Not to be missed.
The Nutcracker plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal from Tuesday 26 to Saturday 30 October 2010.