Dasa Wharton went to photograph for Gramilano the latest outing of Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker – as stunning as ever!
Artists of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, featuring:
Miki Mizutani as The Sugar Plum Fairy
Mathias Dingman as The Prince
Valentin Olovyannikov as Drosselmeyer
Laura Day as Clara
Alys Shee as The Snow Fairy
Beatrice Parma as The Rose Fairy
John F. Macfarlane
David A. Finn
The Birmingham Hippodrome's prepanto seasonal family treat – an established tradition since 1990, when the city proudly acquired its resident ballet company, the Birmingham Royal – is Peter Wright's magical and majestic production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. It's one of the best anywhere. As a stage spectacle it is sumptuous, with thrilling transformation scenes from the designer, John F Macfarlane – the miraculous switches of scale as the Christmas tree grows and King Rat bursts out of a suddenly enormous fireplace, then a subtle dissolve into an oh-so-pretty Land of Snow, and Clara's flight on the back of a giant snow goose (always greeted with gasps of wonderment). – David Dougill, The Sunday Times 2007
Birmingham Royal Ballet's [version] is the work of that great stage sorcerer John Macfarlane, who, back in 1991, designed a vision of the tale as tasteful as it is magical.
The costumes and backdrops have a slightly-faded opulence that's easy on the eye while also adding a subtle twist of melancholy, and Act I's transformation scene is a thing of genuine wonder, the only one I've seen that genuinely leaves the shrinking heroine, Clara, looking the size of a pepper pot.
What's more, so brilliantly executed is all this that you feel as though you, too, have shrunk with the 15-year-old. This helps make the subsequent battle between the rats and toy soldiers – which in most productions leaves one craving the interval and a hefty slug of sauvignon — an exciting spectacle. Children in the audience were goggle-eyed, and I wonder if the adults weren't taken back to those giddily exciting years when they themselves could more or less fit under their own parents' Christmas tree.
… If you're going to see only one Nutcracker this season, make it this one. – Mark Monahan, The Telegraph 2011
I continue to think of this as the best Nutcracker in the land. I still remember the premiere and Peter Wright, with his trade-mark bright red shirt, stalking the back of the stalls to see what his production looked like and how we were enjoying it. “Thank you” I said as I rushed by to get to the bar first and he smiled. It was 1990 and the company had just taken the momentous step of moving from London to Birmingham, renaming itself in the process, and the Nutcracker was Wright's gift (as Director) to the City for its wholehearted support and generosity in making it all happen. And from the off we all knew it was a worthy gift and 24 years on it's still routinely called the best by all who have seen a few. – Bruce Marriott, Dance Tabs 2014
The dancing, set designs and music celebrates the magic of the festive season, like nothing else I've seen on stage. If you're not feeling quite Christmassy yet, this spellbinding production will most definitely help. – Sanjeeta Bains, Birmingham Mail 2017
John Macfarlane's designs are stunning, his Kingdom of the Sweets a subconscious dream-scape of quotidian fragments: an edge of a fan, sunflowers and rug tassels. Throughout the show there are moments so visually effective the audience gasps, including Clara's journeys across misted skies on the back of a large swan.
This is a sleek, well-drilled production, Sir Peter Wright's choreography deeply ingrained in the company dancer's bodies.
… At Christmas time being a world-weary feminist is no fun. In The Nutcracker gendered roles proliferate as sailor-suited boys march and misbehave and smiling girls drown in ruffles. The solution is to see double: both the stereotypes and the innocent joy. It is the infectious magic of this production that impels you to do so. – Erin Whitcroft, The Independent 2017
Ballet doesn't come much more Christmassy than Birmingham Royal Ballet's Nutcracker.
… This production, and Tchaikovsky's beautiful and evocative score … continue to deliver the old magic. – Luke Jennings, The Observer 2014
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.