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Jan McNulty

Northern Ballet - The Nutcracker - 2018

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Northern Ballet have been touring David Nixon's production of the Nutcracker around and the Leeds season opened on Tuesday.

 

A friend and I were fortunate indeed to see three performances in Norwich a couple of weeks ago.

 

This production very much focuses on the light-hearted side of the story and is very family friendly and, it has to be said, is HUGE FUN!  David Nixon has set the production in Georgian England in the home of the Edwards family.  Bearing in mind that NB tend to tour to theatres with smaller stages the set is simple and there is no huge transformation.  The costumes have been refurbished and/or renewed and there have been a couple of tweaks to the diverts in act 2.  I love the new tunics the men are wearing in Act 1 but I preferred the previous trousers rather than the tights they are now wearing.  The ladies' dresses are ravishing.

 

The performances we saw in Norwich were infused with joy and I could not wipe the enormous silly grin off my face!

 

Drosselmeyer is a benevolent magician rather than having a sinister/mysterious side.  I loved both Mlindi Kulashe and Ashley Dixon in the role.

 

In the party scene Clara has an older sister Louise who becomes the Sugarplum Fairy.  Her boyfriend becomes SPF's cavalier.  This all makes perfect sense as the end of Act 1 and Act2 are Clara's "dream".

 

There are lots of character cameos in Act 1.  I particularly loved Sean Bates as Grandda and Kevin Poeung and Matthew Koon as Clara's younger brother in different casts.  Javier Torres made the role of Mr Edwards his own with a fabulously believable performance.  Sadly we did not get to see him as SPF's Cavalier in Norwich but my friend reported that he and Minju Kang were sensational in Leeds on Tuesday evening.

 

The battle isn't hugely vicious with a Mouse rather than Rat King and children playing most of the mice scurrying around.  The dancers playing the Mouse King are encouraged to do their own thing when overlooking the battle.  For me, Nicola Gervasi took the honours on Friday evening with his tiller girl and charleston routine.  I quite forgot to look at the battle and there were loud guffaws, not only from me but the whole audience as people realised what was going on!  Joseph Taylor had an Irish Dancing routine that was also hilarious.

 

The duet between the Nutcracker Prince (transformed into a human) and Clara is just divine.  All three couples we saw - Miki Akuta/Lorenzo Trossello, Abigail Cockrell/Nicola Gervasi and Rachael Gillespie/Ashley Dixon - were wonderful.  I love the new romantic-style long tutus that the snowflakes are wearing.  It adds a completely different dimension to their dance.  I love the swirling patterns they make.  As the company was somewhat smaller in size when this production was first made there are only 8 snowflakes but boy do those ladies fill the stage!

 

In Act 2 the Spanish dance has been remade to a rather spectacular solo for one of the male dancers.  Sadly we did not see Kevin Poeung on whom it was made but Eneko Amoros Zaragosa, Matthew Koon and Filippo di Vilio all sparkled in the role.

 

Dominique Larose/Mlindi Kulashe, Sarah Chu/Jonathan Hanks and Abigail Prudames/Joseph Taylor were the icing on the cake as SPF and her Cavalier.

 

As the dancers all swirl away at the end Mr Edwards has reappeared and is holding Clara in his arms.  She wakes up and as he puts her down she mimes all that she has experienced.  Mr Edwards tells her it is all a dream and as he walks off the Nutcracker Prince appears from the door behind her and blows a kiss towards her.  Was it a dream ... or was it real???

 

I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed the three performances I saw of ballet that I thought "On no not again" when the Autumn season was first announced.  The whole company was enthused with joy and that very much came across the footlights.  I can't wait to see it again in Leeds next week!

 

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