REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Theatre Royal, Newcastle until Saturday

Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker will be at Leeds Grand Theatre this Christmas
Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker will be at Leeds Grand Theatre this Christmas

Although it is only the beginning of November, it’s hard to deny that Christmas cheer is building around the area.

To introduce Christmas 2015, Northern Ballet brings the classic The Nutcracker to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal as part of its nationwide tour.

Artistic Director David Nixon says that he has adored The Nutcracker for the last 40 years.

With this new performance, it is obvious that Nixon has spent years perfecting every detail of this production, which was created in 2007.

This extremely famous story will be familiar to many, renowned for being accessible and enjoyable to all audiences, but the combination of Nixon’s choreography and the outstandingly skilled young dancers makes this a stand-out ballet.

The brilliantly imaginative costume designs and the use of props is delightful, and at times, humorous.

The set, designed by Charles Cusick Smith, transforms the ornate Theatre Royal into a beautiful English mansion.

Characters such as Frederick, portrayed by Matthew Koon, add a playful element to the production, engaging older and younger audiences alike. One of the most impressive scenes includes the French and Chinese dolls, gifts from Uncle Drosselmeyer (Matthew Topliss). The movements of Ayami Miyata, Kevin Poeung and Sebastian Loe are extraordinary as the performers take on the challenge of dancing in a ballet without fluid, flexible motions.

Once the magic is cast, the students of the Elaine Milbourne Theatre Dance School take to the stage, portraying fiendish little mice in a rather comical performance, which leads to a dramatic battle. The music of Tchaikovsky is well executed by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, and creates a remarkable experience for the audience as The Nutcracker doll comes to life.

Portraying a battle through dance can be difficult but the choreography makes the scene exceptional. Furthermore, it must be stated that it is incredible to see that the cast can perform such impressive moves whilst wearing horse costumes.

As the stage transforms to a snowy scene, the performance by the snow maidens and Clara (Rachel Gillespie) is captivating, leaving the audience hypnotised. The arrival of the magic sleigh, a beautiful contribution to the set, signals the end of the first act - an outstanding end to a flawless scene.

Act II is just as awe-inspiring as the first, with stunning performances from both the dancers and the orchestra. The introduction of the Sugar Plum Fairy leads to an array of dances from Russian Cossacks to fascinating flowers.

Each scene is enhanced significantly by the presence of the orchestra, with classics such as Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy echoing through the theatre. The praise from the audience is superb as the applause arrives mid-scene. Gillespie’s dancing stuns once more, with delicate en pointe sequences, alongside Ashley Dixon, who portrays The Nutcracker Prince.

The ending of the story is not to be ruined, but reiterates the magic, through Gillespie’s carefully choreographed moves.

Although you may not have noticed how fast the festive season is approaching, it is recommended that you pay a visit to the Theatre Royal for this spectacular production before the end of the week. Whether you are familiar with the story of The Nutcracker or not, Northern Ballet’s production is excellent, deserving a sold-out audience at each performance.

Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker runs at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from tonight until Saturday.

Tickets start from £14 online. To book, visit or contact 08448 112 121.