BWW REVIEW: THE NUTCRACKER AND I Is A Beautiful Inventive Expression Of The Classic Christmas Ballet
Saturday 19th January 2019, 7pm, City Recital Hall
Concert Pianist Alexandra Dariescu's THE NUTCRACKER AND I pairs her concert piano performance with Désirée Ballantyne's live ballet performance and Yeast Culture's innovative animation for a delightful expression of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet. Audience members that ranged from small children to the more mature were delighted at the magical performance when it made it's way to Sydney.
The audience are greeted by the image of drawing of an upright piano projected on the black sheer screen that spans the full width of the City Recital Hall stage. This two-dimensional piano lines up with the very real grand piano that sits on the stage. Dariescu is represented on screen as a small child stepping up to the piano before the image makes way for a flurry of snow which moves in time to the overture played by Dariescu. Lighting design ensures that Dariescu remains visible whilst the story of the Stahlbaum family's Christmas unfolds on screen, presented in white outlined colored animations that have an element of rawness and 'simplicity' about them (ie. Don't think cartoon or Disney). Ballantyne portrays the dreaming Clara as her dream world grows to match her size and see her on adventures alongside the Nutcracker Prince presented on screen. The live Clara interacts with the dreamed drawings of the Mouse King and his minions, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese dancers along with the Sugar Plum Fairy and Angel before the audience gets to see Dariescu's eventual growth and success as a Concert Pianist.
The Romanian born British Dariescu's piano performance is wonderful and it is good that the piano has been turned to allow the audience to watch her fingers flying across the keys. Ballantyne is precise in her interactions with the images and expresses the bewildered young Clara beautifully though director Nick Hillel has her remaining comparatively still for long sections which feels like a bit of a waste of the former English National Ballet Soloist's talents.
The concept of the projection of animation is an inventive way to present the ballet on a budget and also express some of the magic elements that would be harder to render in real life. The precision in lining up the animation and the live performance is tight but the best way to view this work is to be seated in a position where you are viewing the stage directly forward with the least amount of angle so positioned from the midway point back. Audience members to the side of the stage may have a less aligned experience and anyone too close may feel that some of the magic of the layering is hampered.
THE NUTCRACKER AND I is a sweet, short introduction to classical music and classical dance for either children or those that may still be hesitant to try a classical music performance.