It’s a quintessential part of the Christmas period theatrical fayre. The music is well-known by everyone, but I’d actually not ever seen a production of The Nutcracker live until last night. Would I find it all a bit too twee or a bit too childish? Or would it tick all my nostalgia and ballet boxes?
Wayne Eagling and Peter Farmer have created a rather enchanting piece of ballet here. There are hundreds of variations and ways of doing The Nutcracker, but placing it in its original period and drawing on the classic Edwardian Christmas nostalgia, gives it a real resonance and charm.
The story itself is standard fairy story silliness, but it is Christmas and sometimes its nice to just sit back and be swept away and not have to think or analyse too hard. My main criticism of the actual score/story, is it can on occasions feel a bit disjointed. However as it’s the holiday season I won’t be too curmudgeonly.
As is to be expected the dancing was up to the English National Ballets usual high standards. Eagling’s choreography certainly pushes them. Act 1 had some lovely pieces, the party scene was fun, I was impressed by the child dancers, and that was a clever piece of casting. As the audience had a large number of children present. I imagine a great many are probably dancers too, it certainly gave all the young aspiring dancers a chance to see their contemporaries, and hopefully acted as an inspiration to some watching.
The jewel in the crown of Act 1 was the snowflake scene, which was enchanting.
Act 2 is really where the ballet starts to shine though and here Eagling starts to pull all the clever choreography out of his proverbial conjurors sleeve. Anais Chalendard as Clara was a wonder to behold, such poise, grace and beauty. Partnered against the powerful Vadim Muntagirov as the Nutcracker and Junor Souza as The Prince whose leaps were something to behold.
The Waltz of the Flowers was one of my favourite parts of this act, but the best part of the entire show was the final Pas de Deux, which was majestic.
The enthusiastic applause at the end showed that we’d all had a good time and enjoyed this seasonal nostalgic trip. The Nutcracker is a true Christmas classic, and Eagling’s telling of this tale makes for a masterly version.
STARS : * * * *