The Nutcracker in a Spiegeltent may seem an odd idea but this new addition to Cardiff’s Christmas season inside the walls of the city’s castle works works surprisingly well.
Produced by Cardiff-based live events company Live Under the Stars and Jamboree Entertainment, Cardiff Castle, the ballet, that was originally produced by Rubicon Dance Company, forms part of the Christmas Festival’s three shows created and produced by Richard Perry and John Manders, joint directors of Live under The Stars. Being inside the grounds of Cardiff Castle, it fits neatly into the other attractions in the unique castle setting which includes the ice rink and seasonal food and drink stalls.
For the full-length ballet we are welcomed into the 500-plus seater mirrored tent and either take a chair or slip into a booth, maybe with a drink or save that up for the interval, and the cabaret style magic begins.
Choreographer Jamiel Laurence makes good use of the restricted space which had chairs on three sides with the stage jutting out into the middle of the audience. The dancers either step up onto the stage from the aisles between the chair, which adds to the intimate cabaret feel of the show, or from the “wings”.
His choreography gives a Welsh theme to the traditional Nutcracker story, transposing the Christmas Eve story to Wales where Carys (think Clara) is part of the Williams family plus zany characters incluing Cary’s Uncle Idris and Bopa Sheila and Bopa Linda. The main change is that a Mari Llwyd horse’s head becomes the Mouse King, rather than rodent. Also, the handsome Nutcracker prince goodie and the baddie Mouse King become one and the same, the Mari Llwyd head being removed to reveal the debonair prince.
The couple go off to a sort of winter wonderland, badically fun snowflake characters shimmying and shivering.
Zach Parkin and Ffion Elmer
Chloe Davies as Tegwen, Constant Vigier as Uncle Idris and Rebecca Long as Teleri
Did audiences who are not familiar with the original ballet follow everything that was going on, or work out these transpositions? Who knows? But the audience of mixed ages certainly enjoyed the show and appreciated some fine dancing from the cast.
Ballet purists may not take to the mixture of dance styles but I found the whole show captivating and the adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s score to enable jazz routines in addition to the more traditional music for some neatly executed ballet vocabulary delightful. The combination of dance styles and the more relaxed spiegeltent, cabaret setting may well appeal to people who are unsure whether a full classical ballet is for them.
The show has plenty of laughs and daft antics that sit alongside the fun and zippy jazz routines and the beautiful classical dance from some impressive young dancers. Ffion Elmer and Zach Parkin made a fine Carys and Nutcracker their love duets were delightfully and elegantly executed. Constant Vigier as Uncle Idris and Cameron Everitt as the Father were energetic and skillful constants throughout the show. Young dancer Thea Martin also deserves mention for her polished [erformance as Mari – a very talented dancer.
It would be a huge blow to the city’s artistic life if the current risks to the future of Rubicon are now swiftly resolved.
Until November 27. 27
Tickets and information for Nutcracker and the other two shows at the spiegeltent Castellana and Santa’s Wish are available via the Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival website at www.thecastle.wales
Photos by Natalie Johnson Rolle