REVIEW: Moscow Ballet Company present The Nutcracker - The Queens Theatre 31/10/14

Previous to The Nutcracker last night, I had never been to watch a ballet before. Whether that was because it had never come to my attention that one was at my local theatre or I just never got round to it I don't know but there was something about the idea of it that I liked. Not knowing what to expect meant I went in with an open mind, but I did wonder whether a performance with no dialogue would be difficult to follow or even boring? Yet it was quite the opposite. I didn't have even a second to think about anything other than what was going on on stage because I found my eyes drawn to it and there was always something to watch.

As the lights were dimmed and the music was played light was shone onto a disco ball high above the seats which sent small circles of light moving around the room. This created the image of snow and gave the whole theatre a winter wonderland feel before the show had begun. Although it was being performed on Halloween, not for a second did it lose the Christmassy feel.

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara, who after receiving a life sized Nutcracker from her magician Uncle awakes on Christmas Eve to find her Nutcracker has come to life. She saves her beloved Nutcracker in a fight between the Nutcracker and his soldiers and the Mouse King and his army of mice. After chucking her slipper at the Mouse King and destroying him, Clara travels to the Land of the Sweets alongside the Nutcracker whose spell has now been broken meaning he is now a Prince once more. Dances from all around the world are performed in a celebration of their return and The Prince is free to rule the Land of the Sweets once more. After many dances and celebrating Clara wakes up beside the Christmas tree once more with her wooden nutcracker by her side.

The layout of the stage consisted of a variety of scenery, the first being a the village outside covered in snow to give in a Christmas feel. This was where the snow effect on the disco ball was used to it's full advantage and really gave the feeling of being outside. This setting was only used to show all the families at the start, on the way to the Christmas gathering. It was then used a second time as they left. In these scenes the ballet was performed as less of a dance but more as a mime type performance. Every little movement and gesture was performed over the top and a simple outstretch of the hand was made much bigger and more obvious. This was to make sure the audience were completely aware of what was occurring due to there not being any speech to move the story along. The next setting was inside Clara's house, where the stage was complete with a decorated Christmas tree in the middle of the back wall. When the clock strikes midnight the nutcracker comes to life and the Christmas tree somehow grows in size as the stage is filled with evil mice.
The final layout used was what looked like a ballroom. Here is where all the dances were performed and there were little blocks around the outside for dancers to sit as an audience when they weren't performing.

The one scene that really stood out for me was the fight between the Mice and The Nutcracker and his men. I am aware many others prefered scenes like the Waltz of the Snowflakes as they were beautifully composed but there was something about the action in this scene that excited me. The whole stage was lit in only the colour red and that triggered something inside me that really drew me in. The colour was so correctly used as it made me aware that some action was about to occur- and that excited me! The tempo of the music was much quicker all of a sudden and everything that had been so gentle and calm before had completely changed. I think this scene was very cleverly done and everyone was very much in unison which was very impressive. The performers also continued to perform in complete unison extremely well throughout the performance which complemented the magical image to the piece.

Throughout the night I was left in awe at each of the performers, yet I somehow had the urge to pirouette around the room which is very unlikely for me. The people playing as the life sized dolls at the start moved like they were real toys and like they had just been wound up. Clara reminded me of an old musical jewelry box I had as a child where when you would open it a ballerina would dance to music. Every thing was so precise and intricate it was hard to believe these were real people.

Moscow Ballet La Classique performed what was a breathtaking and visually appealing performance. They used the correct musical compositions to complement their version of the Nutcracker and although I would recommend you knew of the story line beforehand, the performance had a sense of real magic about it. Whether the magic was the magic of Christmas of just the magic of how these performers hold there legs in the air for so long it was well worth watching!

  The Nutcracker is among a variety of shows performed at North Devon Theatres and there are many that are all well worth the watch. (Website)

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