Latest Review – The Nutcracker [Moscow City Ballet] [Palace Theatre, Manchester] [UK Tour]

THE NUTCRACKER

Moscow City Ballet

Palace Theatre, Manchester

Until Saturday 16 January, 2016

Moscow City Ballet returns to Manchester with their acclaimed production of one of the most cherished works in the classical canon. Unfortunately though it proves a rather bland and basic staging of the great work, with overly repetitive choreography and unclear direction rendering it a confusing and rather mish-mashed take on the familiar tale. It’s not necessarily a bad production – quite the contrary as it is very enjoyable in parts – it is simply a different take on the ballet that doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to.

There are some standout turns from soloists and the corps, particularly during the Act Two Grand Divertissement and Pas de Deux – which feature all the individually themed, featured dances – however there are a some slight technical errors which go against things, with dancers falling out of turns on occasion and  synchronisation errors particularly noticeable during the first act.

The Act One ‘Pine Forest’ finale is a real highlight, though the last minute or so is completely spoiled by a very bizarre artistic decision indeed. About two minutes prior to the curtain, a loud noise which sounded somewhat like the cleaners had turned up too early with the hoovers appeared somewhere overhead, leading to audience members whispering to each other and turning their heads in search of this unexpected aural assault. After about thirty seconds of the strange hoovering sound two machines suddenly began to expel a thin layer of snow over the front half of the stalls. This again drew a considerable reaction from the audience – which continued right up to the curtain – and completely distracted the attention of most, meaning a good number of people actually missed the impressive technical display on stage leading up to the final tableau.

Overall, the production just lacks clarity in its direction. As mentioned above, there are some very strange decisions which don’t help things – notably having the wrong characters dance certain themed solos – and it just does not tell the story effectively enough. We are never quite sure who characters are, the Nutcracker is dressed differently to the wooden figure and the production morphs very distinctly into Swan Lake on more than one occasion.

From a design point of view it is again very simple. Elegant, but simple. The set is comprised entirely of cloths and back projections with only some standard washes and hues to try and enhance the atmosphere.

The Orchestra of the Moscow City Ballet were in fine form under the baton of Igor Shark, though for some bizarre reason the pit had not been opened up fully and the orchestra were pretty much shoved under the stage, leading to a slightly muffled or muted sound throughout, with the audience never getting the full effect we should have heard.

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Running Time: 2 hours and 10-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

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Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 16 January, 2016.

For more information and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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