Birmingham Royal Ballet reaches its 20th anniversary next year, and Sir Peter Hall’s production of the classic tale has been a stable seasonal highlight of the companies’ repertoire for the majority of its twenty years.
Telling the story of young Clara and her blissful adventures into a wintery dream world, The Nutracker is an engaging journey that is able to delight the old and young. Whereas the majority of traditional ballet can dwell on duet and become monotonous in its repetition of similar routines, this production is a flavoursome performance in which the variety of content and style keeps its audience bewitched.
The variety of dance is reflected in John F.Macfarlane’s dreamscape designs that are masterfully fashioned in order to create a picture on stage that appears to be a giant oil painting magically brought to life. The magic within Macfarlane’s designs lies not only in its construction, but in its execution. Seamless transitions and awesome special effects, such as a gigantic growing Christmas tree, make the design of the piece something special to behold.
In the theatre today it is not often that the orchestra take the limelight, however, when equipped with Tchaikovsky’s lush score of instantly recognisable tunes, and the ability to play it so well, its without doubt that the Royal Ballet Sinfonia become the stars of the show.
This is not to say that the performance doesn’t give BRB’s principle dancers the chance dazzle; Nao Sakuma gives an enchanting star turn as the Sugar Plum Fairy, as does Carole-Anne Millar as the young Clara. Millar manages to capture the innocence of a young girl in her delicate portrayal without ever choosing to mimic childlike characteristics in the overstated way that so many performers can.
Whilst the wistful journey of Clara maintains our attention, it can also become a little void of characterisation and gives little chance for the audience to connect with the characters on stage as most appearances are short lived.
However, Sir Peter Hall’s production still proves to be a special highlight of Birmingham’s seasonal offerings, maintaining its tradition without being outdated or kitsch.