The Royal Ballet started this arena lark back in the summer with Romeo and Juliet. Five months later and Birmingham Royal Ballet have a pop at the self-same O2 Arena with Peter Wright’s classy Nutcracker.
The company made a significant difference from the Royal in bringing a proscenium which enabled a full staging complete with scene changes and detailed lighting. They also provided an extended stage that jabbed out into the stalls; this worked well when the dancers stepped forward to strut their stuff but did mean that any action at the back was a long way away indeed, even from those in the front seats. The use of just one film screen above the stage for close-ups was less of distraction than the three on offer for Romeo and Juliet and shifting the Royal Ballet Sinfonia down to floor level gave a more intimate feel.
The dancing was impressive. Angela Paul danced prettily as Clara and carried the story well. Iain Mackay was a strong as ever although his Sugar Plum looked a little out of allsorts. Perhaps the best performance of the night came from Céline Grittens who stood out with her quick feet and musicality in the easy-to-look-bad role of the Rose Fairy.
In an effort to get bums on seats X-Factor winner Joe McElderry was dragged in to introduce the show. While it’s good that he might have brought in a few newcomers to ballet it’s not entirely clear what yodelling a few Christmas carols actually brought to the occasion.
Despite his best/worst efforts, the O2 was barely half-full indicating that the future of Arena Ballet is far from certain. A shame really, as I was just getting used to the place.