The Nutcracker

Norwich Theatre Royal

> Norwich Theatre Royal

It is easy to see why ETA Hoffmann's sinister fairytale of Clara, the little girl who is given a magical nutcracker in human form, became such a stage success.

In the hands of composer Tschaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa, it is full of those fantastical flights of fancy which romantic Russian ballet expresses so well.

The magical journey from looking into the toy box to being inside it is one that I certainly dreamt of as a child, and, with sumptuous music full of harps and soaring, dynamic melodies, the Nutcracker did not disappoint in the vision created at the Theatre Royal last night.

The dancing of the principals was full of the brilliance and flourish for which the famous Vaganova school in St Petersburg is rightly famous.

High points for me came in the magic doll solos: I particularly enjoyed the spinning Cossack, dressed all in gold, and the solo by moonlight with Clara and the nutcracker in which every line of her body expressed her affection for the toy. But the dramatic finale here was the fight between the seven-headed king of the mice and the nutcracker, which saw the toy turn into a prince.

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The set was just what you imagine theatre will look like before you have ever been: two- dimensional fairytale castles came and went on huge painted flats. Swathes of star-spangled curtains seemed to billow out each side of the stage. And games of scale meant that in act two, toys from the first half were suddenly conjured into enormous set pieces: like a blue swan, big enough for the dancers to ride in.

But perhaps the most familiar passages for me came in the Land of Sweets: where one scene of delight unfolded in a cloud of pink tulle to reveal another, all leading to the famous dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

This was ballet good enough to eat.

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