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The Nutcracker review at New Victoria Theatre, Woking – ‘catches the Christmas spirit’

Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker. Photo: Bill Cooper Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker. Photo: Bill Cooper
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Northern Ballet kicks off the Christmas run of Nutcrackers with David Nixon’s version of the seasonal favourite – The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet are all staging productions. The ballet is deservedly popular, offering Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music, pretty dancing, and Yuletide spirit. At only two hours long, it won’t test the attention span of younger audiences.

Productions vary, and Northern Ballet’s reflects its modest numbers and resources. The scale is smaller, with just eight snowflakes – 24 or even 36 are common – a reduced score, and pack-in-a-bag sets. Despite this, the opening night performance catches the spirit of the piece. The first act sets the scene with the family Christmas party, the arrival of the magician Drosselmeyer, and the exchange of gifts – all clearly acted, with the dancers giving a light touch to their characters.

The dancing is neatly done, with careful placement from Rachel Gillespie as Clara and Lucia Solari as her sister – later returning as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Overall, the dancers seem to have benefited from coaching that shows their strengths rather than their limitations. Less good are some of the costumes. The snowflakes are in long drapy dresses without reflective decoration, meaning they don’t especially evoke crisp snowflakes or shining ice. Some of the choreography lacks character. For example, the Arabian and Spanish dances only vaguely suggest ideas of those cultures. The transformation scene could be more precise, in particular, the moment when the Nutcracker toy becomes the prince needs greater clarity to convey its all-important meaning.

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Modestly scaled Nutcracker that still catches the Christmas spirit while providing neat dancing and a gently acted story