Review: The Nutcracker, Moscow City Ballet, Theatre Royal Brighton

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker

Trying to avoid a cliché – and not succeeding, ballet is the Marmite of the performing arts....people either love it or hate it.

For the latter group, I have some good news. Modern ballet has more in common with Olympian levels of athleticism than rather prettified posing where the chaps

acted as support mechanisms for mechanical dolls.

Last week the Theatre Royal, Brighton was the latest venue on the Moscow City Ballet’s whistlestop British tour. By the time you read this, they will have moved on, but I advise you to catch them somewhere if you can....if not pick up on performances by any Russian ballet troupe that hits the coast.

The company performed Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I saw the Nutcracker and if Swan Lake lived up to the impeccable standards set by the Tchaikovsky piece, then Natalie Portman’s Black Swan will be buried at the bottom of the DVD remainder basket.

Once again it was a question of being unable to look away from specific performers – or rather finding your gaze inevitably focused on one or two in the company. Difficult, given the exemplary standard of performance delivered on a snowy Brighton night.

The Nutcracker is the riveting depiction of a young, aristocratic girl’s party where her gifts of toys appear to ‘come alive’ at night as she sleeps.

There are flower fairies, a mouse king, dolls, princes and princesses galore. I often wonder how post-revolutionary Russia coped with these garlanded and bemedalled young royals.

Alevtina Lapshina was simply stunning as the young Clara. She was beautiful, girlish without simpering, expressive and could be a gymnast if it were not for the elegance and line of her movement. You could not look away while she was on stage. She could also act her socks off.

She was ably supported by the intensely Slavic and supple Talgat Kozhabayev who must have emerged from some Eastern province to wow us pale, dairyfed Western European audiences. In his solo performances, he didn’t leap, he was suspended in the stratosphere.

The familiar Spanish, Russian, Eastern and Chinese dances were performed with vigour and expression and particular plaudits must go to the courtiers who accompanied Chinese dancer Anna Ivanova and received a deserved standing ovation.

This ballet – one of the four currently touring – might just help diehard male footie fanatics comprehend that accuracy, speed, muscle power and showmanship have a home on the stage as well as the pitch.