Birmingham Hippodrome (venue)
24 November 2017 (released)
This particular production was first produced in 1990 and is performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, all under the watchful eye of the masterful Sir Peter Wright. Year on year, he and his team deliver a show that feels as a fresh as the first time it took to the stage, and this year is no different.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes a bit like this: the Stahlbaum family are having a Christmas Eve soiree in their home when a magician arrives. He brings with him gifts for the children. One of which is a nutcracker, carved like a miniature man, which the family’s daughter, Clara, takes a particular liking to. Later that night, after going to bed, she sneaks downstairs to check on the toy. Suddenly, everything comes to life – including the nutcracker, which grows to the size of real life man. From here, she is whisked into a magical land of sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The seriously impressive dancing comes in the second half. But, from the off, this production is a feast for the eyes and ears. John F. Macfarlane’s beautifully designed set is colourful in a way that accentuates every note and tone of Tchaikovsky’s quixotic score, with every detail chosen to enhance the audience’s experience of the story. From the transformation of the Stahlbaum’s parlour into an otherworldly nightmare, of sorts – then, in the second act, into a land of fantasy – the stage is as encapsulating as the meticulous notations of the music. The lighting enhances everything, ebbing and flowing with the mood of the tale.
But, what would a ballet be without talented dancers? And, based on tonight’s performance, this company (Birmingham Royal Ballet) is blessed with them. At the centre is Clara, portrayed by the graceful and extremely talented Karla Doorbar. She looks born for the part, with elegant placement of her arms and fingers, and a performance that is totally captivating.
The brilliant Momoko Hirata, delivers, with aplomb, the production’s iconic moment, though: The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her movement is so finely tuned, you can see she knows, inside out, each board of the stage. She’s gracefully agile and has a fantasy-like air about her. It really is a treat to watch her move, and you can see her co-performers are thinking the same.
All-in, this is a production for everyone with a yearning for some magic and escape. Kids will lose themselves in it, while the older folk among us are urged to let the world slip from our minds – for a few hours at least, anyway…