• Naomi Cockshutt

Birmingham Royal Ballet The Nutcracker

December 28, 2017 | Royal Albert Hall

Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall © Annabel Moeller

In a pioneering project with Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Royal Albert Hall present an extraordinary production of the Company’s time-honoured Christmas classic, The Nutcracker; created by Sir Peter Wright in 1990, the same year he led the Company to its new home in Birmingham. With a run of only seven performances between Christmas and New Year, the staging features choreography from Peter Wright, Vincent Redmon and Lev Ivanov, with additional input from Director David Bintley and Assistant Director Marion Tait.

Embellished by Dick Bird’s sets, dazzlingly lit by Peter Teigen, the cinematic theatre experience is designed by award-winning 59 Productions, the video creatives behind the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, with soundscape from Bobby Aitken.

The two-act narrative collaborates with actor Simon Callow, as the German Voice of Drosselmeyer. Casting sees Stoke-on-Trent born First Artist Karla Doorbar as Clara and Principals Momoko Hirata and César Morales in the roles of The Sugar Plum Fairy and The Prince. Without a pit, the orchestra are seated above the stage in front of the organ (where the choir usually sing) and as the clock strikes midnight, Drosselmeyer, Clara’s Godfather, dramatized by First Soloist Jonathan Payn, joins conductor Philip Ellis on his raised podium, whilst 59 Productions create a state-of-the-art technology growing Christmas tree projection.

Earlier in the Autumn, the Company successfully auditioned a handful of animated children to perform as party guests alongside Assistant Director Marion Tait and Senior Ballet Master Michael O’Hare, who deliver an entertaining Grandparent pas de caractèrepair and Principal Tzu-Chao Chou’s ferocious performance as Jack-in-the-Box, complete with mighty 180 degree kicks. Doorbar’s portrayal of Clara flaunts her remarkable technical aptitude and stage presence, though at times falls short in achieving rhythmical finesse.

Amidst a trio of scuttling remote-controlled rodents, Clara’s Nutcracker Doll danced by Soloist Kit Holder and The Rat King (First Soloist Yasuo Atsuji) lead the battle scene with an ensemble of toy soldiers and giant rats. Migrating to the Land of Snow, revolving rays encircle the Hall, no sooner does The Snow Fairy, Principal Samara Downs and her Snowflakes close Act One.

The usual Act Two Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russian divertissements ensue, yet the Dance of the Mirlitons exceeds in choice; with First Artists Ruth Brill, Reina Fuchigami, Jade Heusen and Soloist Miki Mizutani - an enchanting scenette, full of animation and musical clarity. The Rose Fairy, Principal Céline Gittens leads the Waltz of the Flowers before Principals Momoko Hirata and César Morales join in an unblemished execution of the most awaited Grand pas de deux.

Momoko Hirata as the Sugar Plum Fairy and César Morales as the Prince in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall © Annabel Moeller