Everyone has their own event which confirms to them that the festive season has arrived, and for some, Christmas isn’t Christmas until they have had their traditional trip to see Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. ★★★★
The ballet tells the story of Clara, a young girl who is given a gift of a nutcracker which comes to life, and the handsome Nutcracker Prince transports her on a magical journey to battle The Mouse King, to sweep through a snow filled forest and on to a celebration in an enchanted garden.
Northern Ballet is well known for their theatrical presentation and their clear narrative storytelling; both of which combine to make this production ideal for all. Young families will be charmed by the magic and spectacle; ballet novices will find the story accessible and enjoy the well-paced number of short set pieces which provides plenty of variation; and for those with a love for ballet, there are the technically impressive performances and the beautifully sounding live score.
David Nixon has choreographed a thoroughly enjoyable ballet which simultaneously feels both traditional and fresh. Filling the large stage at the Leeds Grand Theatre, the company’s presentation of this Christmas staple is beautifully done with some lovely costumes, a well put together set which allows the full utilisation of the stage as a dance space and superb performances from the company, with the dancers playing to their individual strengths. Amongst a universally impressive cast, Ashley Dixon looked suitably dashing as The Nutcracker Prince and Rachael Gillespie’s portrayal of Clara was filled with childhood awe and innocence.
There are a number of things to recommend this production, there is humour in its presentation, well timed moments of comedy, the scene in the snow filled wood was enchanting (if slightly scaled back in numbers) and the traditional elements of the ballet were all present. The second act allowed the dancers to shine individually and the running time simply flew by.
And if the end of the first act doesn’t leave you feeling festive, then very little will.
Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker is at Leeds Grand Theatre until the 2nd January 2016. Visit www.northernballet.com for more details, to book tickets or to see their forthcoming touring programme, which includes Swan Lake, 1984, Wuthering Heights and the world premiere of Jane Eyre