Review: The Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Just a quickie, as I don’t really do much dance alongside my theatre-going and so I often struggle to write up these shows cogently, especially when there are so many others who write so well about dance. But I do go occasionally, and quite often it is at Christmas-time as part of a family tradition which is still being observed by me and one, if not the other, of my sisters as we are treated to a Christmas shopping trip, dinner and a show by Aunty Jean. We’ve taken in all sorts over the years, including countless Returns to the Forbidden Planet, a ridiculous Wizard of Oz and a John Rutter concert last year, but often it was to the ballet that we would go and so there’s something innately Christmassy about the ballet for me.

In that respect, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is the perfect festive indulgence and in this classic production by Sir Peter Wright, we were given a sumptuous, traditional and gorgeously danced treat. It looks amazing, the sets for the first act just get better and better, I only wish we could spend longer in the section where Clara is shrunk as the giant tree looks magnificent, and the final tableau is goosebump-inducingly beautiful. The snow-goose-related coup de grâce that opens the second act perfectly embodies the kind of magic that feels just right at this time of year and overall, it is easy to see why this is a production that returns year after year.

The music was beautifully played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy’s baton but for such a well-known show, there are surprisingly few distinct musical moments therein – it is not the most hummable of scores. Which means that the dancing is all the more important and to these uneducated eyes, everyone was on top form. Angela Paul’s lithe Clara, Iain Mackay’s handsome Prince, Matthew Lawrence’s swooping Drosselmeyer, Jenna Robert’s exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy, it all looked perfect to me. Combined with the great work from the company in the Land of the Sweets, it all made for a lovely Christmas trip and made me glad that this is a tradition we have stuck with.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £5
Booking until 11th December but playing the O2 27th-30th December


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