Show: The Nutcracker
Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Date: 19th November 2018
Company: Russian State Ballet
Director & choreographer: Konstantin Uralsky
Music: Composed by Tchaikovsky; performed by the Russian State Symphony
Principal dancers: Karina Likhanova (Marie), Igor Likhanov (The Nutcracker), Marina Nomyrova (Sugar Plum Fairy), & Anton Piasteskhin (Prince Coqueluche)
Based on the classic tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann, the ballet adaptation of The Nutcracker has become a staple of the theatre scene during the festive period. This touring production by The Russian State Ballet and Opera House is every bit as magical and enchanting as you’d want it to be.
The story is one of timeless whimsy that embraces the wonder of Christmas, the power of childhood imagination, and the beauty of dreams come true. A young girl’s Christmas gift – an unassuming nutcracker doll – comes to life as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas morning. He and the other toys must overcome the Mouse King, before travelling through snowy climbs to The Land of Sweets, where they celebrate their victory with all manner of weird and wonderful characters.
First-off, I have to give special mention to the three dancers who performed the Arabian Dance (the second Act sees a number of ‘dolls’ from around the world come to life to perform a balletic interpretation of their national dance). I’ve been lucky enough to see a fair few ballets in my time, including another company’s production of The Nutcracker, but this was quite possibly the most intricate, stylised, precise, and visually arresting sequence I’ve ever seen on stage. The production would have been worth seeing for this, and the snowflake scene, alone.
But if those moments set a precedent for the quality of the show at large, I was in no way disappointed. Hearing the iconic Tchaikovsky score performed live by a 30-piece orchestra made all the difference. Utterly transporting, there are several pieces in the suite that everyone will recognise the moment they hear them, even if they have no interest in ballet whatsoever – and all were performed flawlessly. The set design and props were excellent, and the costumes some of the most sumptuous and detailed I’ve seen in a ballet. It was this kind of attention to detail that elevated the show to the next level – but then the Russians are famous for their ballet, of course. After seeing this production, I have no doubt as to why.
The company is currently touring the UK, with a rotating repertoire of The Nutcracker, Giselle, and Swan Lake. I highly recommend catching them if you can – especially in a showing of The Nutcracker. Its playfulness, and accessible, family-friendly story make it ideal for newcomers and lovers of the form alike. Not to mention that it’s a perfect early Christmas treat to get you in the festive spirit.