My favourite ballet, The Nutcracker, came to the Hull New Theatre stage on Wednesday evening, bathing us all in a welcome festive glow.
And, to my untrained eye, the Northern Ballet company performed this wintry tale to perfection.
Even before a ballet pump had performed one relevé (I Googled) on the stage, we in the packed theatre got into the Christmas spirit just my looking at the wonderful stage setting – huge, many-paned windows, warmly lit from within and laden with snow.
Set on Christmas Eve, the Edwards family are excitedly preparing for Christmas. Clara (Rachael Gillespie), her sister Louise (Saeka Shirai) and brother Frederick (Filippo Di Vilio) are all enjoying themselves with typical sibling shenanigans, which includes Frederick’s teasing of Clara.
Uncle Drosselmeyer (Mlindi Kulashe) arrives, handing out gifts from his travels – life-size dancing dolls and a wooden nutcracker – the latter he hands to Clara as a gift.
For some reason, Clara is enchanted by the wooden nutcracker, so much so that when she goes to bed that night she dreams of him coming alive, as a Nutcracker Prince (Harris Beattie).
From this moment on in the dreamy production it was breathtaking ballet dancing all the way, aided and abetted by a fabulous stage setting, amazing costumes, atmospheric lighting and the most glorious music of Tchaikovsky played with gusto by the talented musicians of the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Daniel Parkinson.
I think most people will be familiar with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker compositions. Tunes such as Waltz Of The Flowers and Waltz Of The Snowflakes may not be recognisable by their titles alone, until one hears them. And who can forget The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy – a tune I am still singing along to hours later, with the words “everyone’s a fruit and nut case”, that irreverent, but hugely memorable,1975 chocolate ad.
We had dancing snowflakes and flowers; riders on horseback; marching soldiers; French and Chinese dolls (Sena Kitano, Archie Sherman, Antoni Cañellas Artigues); a Mouse King (Bruno Serraclara); the cutest little mice (students from RS Dance School, in Brough, East Yorkshire); Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, French and Russian dancers, plus a giant sleigh.
All the above, plus the famous Sugar Plum Fairy (a dual role for Saeka Shirai) and her Cavalier (Jonathan Hanks).
There are no words than can do justice to what we witnessed on Wednesday evening. The whole package was a delight. Comic elements even included the King Mouse doing the floss!
After all my years of reviewing ballets I still don’t know my adage from my arabesque (I Googled again), but the jaw-dropping talent of these dancers, en pointe for longish periods, fills me with wonderment. They all made it look so effortless and thoroughly deserved the prolonged and vocal ovation.
Space limits me to name everyone on the stage that night, but special mention must go to Shirai in her dual role – she was utterly mesmerising.
Northern Ballet productions seem to go from strength to strength and, in my humble opinion, this Nutcracker is one of the company’s best. Everyone involved has obviously drawn on a myriad of talents to create an unforgettable, spellbinding experience. I couldn’t fault a thing.
Running until Saturday, December 3rd, 2022; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinee on Saturday, December 3rd. Tickets cost from £9. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 30th November 2022
North west End UK Rating: ★★★★★