Review: The Nutcracker

David Nixon’s OBE version of The Nutcracker performed at the Leeds Grand Theatre is a dream-like fairy tale for children and adults alike. Tchaikovsky’s iconic score creates a perfect backdrop for the ballet dancing.

The story takes place on Christmas day, when Clara is presented with a wooden Nutcracker doll by Uncle Drosselmeyer. Unable to sleep, the protagonist returns to the party room, where the toy comes to life. The Nutcracker and his soldiers have to fight the Mouse King, who has declared war. After the victory, the title character is transformed into a charming Prince. As the setting moves to a magical kingdom covered with snow, Clara and the Prince are met by snowflakes who greet them with a beautiful dance. Uncle Drosselmeyer directs the magic sleigh through the clouds to a beautiful garden. Here, Clara is introduced to the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, who resembles her sister Louise and her boyfriend James. Clara and the Prince watch stunning performances by Arabian, Russian and French dancers, as well as by flowers. However, the most significant dances are those performed by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Clara wakes up in her father’s arms: was she dreaming all along? If so, why is the Prince still in the party room?

A stunning performance by dancers of all ages. The choreography varies between solo performances, duets, and group dances. The audience laughs throughout the scene of the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The bum-wiggling of the villain provides comic relief during the fight scenes, when surrounded by ballet dancing. It is a shame that the villain and his mice soldiers did not return for another performance.

Rachael Gillespie, who plays Clara, gives a fantastic performance throughout. She maintains the innocence of her young character during the entire story. The audience follows her curious movements during the real Christmas party, as well as during the dreamy adventure. Mlindi Kulashe portrays the mysterious character of Uncle Drosselmeyer, whose rapid and large movements resemble the scale of his magic.

The grand tree in the middle of the party room creates a festive atmosphere. The Christmas spirit is brought by the snowy set design of the magical kingdom, where Clara is greeted by snowflakes. The silver dresses of the snowflakes glitter creating a magical atmosphere and adding to the dreamy character of the creatures. The whole stage is shining like a winter wonderland, with glitter falling down to resemble snow. Leaving the theatre, I felt like Clara when she woke up from her dream; transformed back into reality after a magical experience.


Karolina Glasek

Image courtesy of Culture Vulture