The Nutcracker – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre, 2018

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the nutcracker review leeds grand theatre 2018 Mlindi Kulashe

The Nutcracker – Review

Leeds Grand Theatre, December 2018

by Sandra Callard

We know that Christmas is nigh when The Nutcracker makes its appearance – and the beauty and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s incomparable music has lost none of its power to charm since its premiere in St Petersburg in 1892.

Choreographer and Artistic Director of Northern Ballet, David Nixon, has created a sumptuous production with all the colour and flair that this most famous and loved ballet deserves. Nixon has set the story in the Georgian period, giving an English look to the opening scene on Christmas Eve. The infectious excitement of the children permeates through to the adults as the preparations for the party reach their peak.

the nutcracker review leeds grand theatre 2018 Northern Ballet

Northern Ballet dancers in ‘The Nutcracker’

“Vigorous performance”

Clara awaits her mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer, who arrives with a strange box, from which instigates the start of the magic. Drosselmeyer gives her a wooden doll in the form of a soldier, the fabled Nutcracker doll, which comes to life as a handsome prince and takes Clara on a magical tour of dancing from all over the world.

Clara is danced with elegant joy by Rachael Gillespie, who embodies a child’s eternal delight at Christmas. Uncle Drosselmeyer bursts on to the stage with a force that is both energetic and enigmatic. He is danced superbly by Mlindi Kulashe (pictured, top) as he summons up Spanish, Russian and French dancers, as well as dancers from the East, in a superb cornucopia of movement and athletic beauty. The Spanish dance is executed alone by Kevin Poeung, in a spectacularly vigorous performance which received the applause it fully deserved.

the nutcracker review leeds grand theatre 2018 Rachael Gillespie

Rachel Gillespie as Clara

“Real joy”

The Russian dance, the Arabian, the French and the Chinese are all presented impeccably, and their nationalities are easily recognised by the audience. The humour which is occasionally projected by the dancers is delightful to see and a unique accompaniment to the dancing. The eagerly awaited Sugar Plumb Fairy appears in a costume of vivid colours, and Minju Kang brings beauty, elegance and superb interpretation to Tchaikovsky’s famous music.

All is not light and beauty as the Mouse King and his entourage of soldier mice appear to spoil the joy of Christmas. The soldiers are summoned and manage to repel the marauding invaders in a wonderfully funny and charming scene, and the costume designers and makers deserve a huge accolade as these wonderful animal characters are met with real joy from the audience.

the nutcracker review leeds grand theatre 2018 soldiers

Soldiers repelling the mice in ‘The Nutcracker’

“Uses every note”

I cannot speak highly enough of the dancers of Northern Ballet, and in particular their Artistic Director, David Nixon OBE, who has brought something new and vibrant to an evergreen story. He has, of course, the glorious music of Tchaikovsky as a permanent presence to the story, and he uses every note of it to the advantage of the dancers.

Northern Ballet goes from strength to strength with each performance and it is clear to anyone who sees them that they are in the top echelon of ballet companies. The Nutcracker has been a much loved ballet for over 120 years, and Tchaikovsky’s music is eternal, but David Nixon and company have enthused something new and elusive to this brilliant production which enables us to see it with eyes anew.

images: Emma Kauldhar

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