The Nutracker [Northern Ballet] – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Sandra Callard, December 2022
A palpable sense of Christmas excitement is in the air at Leeds Grand before another magical retelling of the classic tale of The Nutcracker. Gentle though the story may be, it is led by a young girl who dreams of wonderful and exciting things on the evening before Christmas – and these turn out to be more outrageous, daring and wonderful than she could have ever imagined.
The young girl, Clara, is danced by Rachael Gillespie, who gives a beautiful and evocative performance as she glides through the wondrous glories of Christmas Eve and meets fear, fun and love as her dreams surround her.
The characters in The Nutcracker are as strange, as funny and as entertaining as any you would find throughout any ballet performance. Clara’s dancing partner is the wonderful wooden doll, Nutcracker, who transforms into a handsome Prince, before living through many adventures with her. The most amusing of these is the battle of the animals as they endeavour to fight the hilarious Mouse King. The ballet dancing is as perfect as it is possible to be, and the wonderful Drosselmeyer, who is Clara’s mysterious uncle, holds the stage each time he enters. Stage sets and costume designs are stunning throughout.
“Strange and beautiful”
This Nutcracker is separated into two parts, either side of the interval, and I am surprised to see that they are two very different parts indeed. The first is a fabulously crafted consummation of artistic glory as the dancers show the audience exactly how ballet should be executed, and it truly takes your breath away. But I take my life in my hands when I have to say that this beautiful dancing and the wonderful athletics do eventually become somewhat repetitive, although always so stunningly beautiful.
However, the second half is another story altogether, and well worth the wait, as the glorious music of Tchaikovsky fills the theatre and the dancers possess it as if they had waited a century to hear it. It is one of the most wonderfully moving and breathtaking performances I have ever seen, and the whole of the theatre erupts in lavish and deserving praise.
What a strange and beautiful evening of theatre it was – and one I shall long remember. I was still wondering as we left the show how the performances of the two halves of ballet could affect me so differently, but I was pleased to hear that other patrons had come to the same conclusion. Another victory for Northern Ballet, a company that has risen steadily to become the premier ballet of the North – and who surely has the ability to take the leap to become the best ever.
The Nutcracker is at Leeds Grand until 7th January 2023
images: Kyle Baines