Culture critic Madeline McInnis reviews Mindgame at the Belgrade, Coventry.Written by mmcinnis on 16th March 2018
Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Food Editor Caitlin Dickinson indulges in a classic Christmassy treat at The Hippodrome
As the Christmas season comes to Birmingham, so does the annual performance of The Nutcracker by Birmingham’s Royal Ballet. This seamless performance of the traditional Nutcracker starts off on Christmas Eve in the Stahlbaum family home. Most people will know the story of the Nutcracker, it is a staple of Christmas festivities. But it was a true privilege to watch this performance on stage at the Hippodrome which is being directed by David Bintley CBE.
The basic plot of the play involves the main heroine Clara, receiving a magical gift of a toy nutcracker from a magician called Drosselmeyer. This toy possesses magical powers and takes her on a journey through magical foreign lands. The strange, but wonderful places she visits are conjured up by the magician and by the end of the performance she is transformed into the Sugar Plum fairy- the ballerina she desires to be. Eventually, this world vanishes and she is back under the Christmas tree, on Christmas day.
“Each movement, whether it be slow or fast, complex or simple, was done with stability and control
The soloist of Clara, performed by Karla Doorbar, whom the Nutcracker circulates around on her magical Christmas adventure, was on the stage throughout the entirety of the ballet. Her excellent performance was eloquently danced without error. Each movement, whether it be slow or fast, complex or simple, was done with stability and control. But, Karla Doorbar retained the young, naïve nature of Clara whilst combining this with the effortless ability of a highly professional dancer. The pinnacle of Clara’s performance was when at the end of Act 1. It was at the moment where tension was high as there was a battle between the Nutcracker and King Rat. Clara was attacked by the King Rat and there was an intense, but elegant nature to her performance, which was epitomised in tapping the nose of the King Rat with her ballet shoe. It showed the development from her being a child, to the more mature Sugar Plum Fairy. I was truly amazed by the quality of the performance of Clara, it was potentially the highlight of the show for me.
“This performance was truly not just one for the eyes, but for the ears
However, this was challenged by the interesting performance of the magician Drosselmeyer, performed by Jonathan Payn. As the magician who triggers the magical journey of Clara, he is key in the events of the performance. The character of Drosselmeyer is incredibly poignant as his initial benevolence giving Clara a present is continually twisted and questioned when she is mysteriously taken on a journey by him where he shows sinister sides to his personality. Yet, the performance of Drosselmeyer was done with style and confidence. There was a degree of independence in the act of Drosselmeyer with his strong stage presence and the dominant cape which floated around each movement the dancer made. It was dazzling how the performance completely took over the whole stage and was captivating in both acting and dancing. I have never seen the part of this magician both acted and danced to such an intense level, it was a really pleasurable aspect of the performance.
“Dazzling spectacle that'll put you in the Christmas spirit.
It cannot go without mention that this performance was truly not just one for the eyes, but for the ears. The amazing music, which was originally performed by Tchaikovsky, was done to perfection by the orchestra at the Hippodrome. The solos by the dancers would not have had the focus and precision without the clear and crisp sounds from the orchestra. I believe that the ballet and music work both hand in hand during this production and are responsive to one another. Admittedly, I did not know every single piece that was performed, but I was aware of the most famous of Tchaikovsky’s pieces. It may be cliché to say, but the ‘Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy’ was by far my favourite piece within the whole production.
This dazzling spectacle not only puts you in the Christmas spirit, but also allows you to bring together dance, music and scenery in a fusion of talent by Birmingham’s Royal Ballet. I would thoroughly recommend getting yourself a ticket for an early Christmas treat.
More information can be found here.