More than 40 years since its world premier at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre in 1973, Scottish Ballet brings Peter Darrell’s Nutcracker back to enthral a new generation of dance lovers. It’s been dusted down and polished up, and with just a few tweaks here and there this beautiful classical ballet is presented, fresh and dazzling, to a 21st century audience, this time at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.
The Nutcracker is the ultimate Christmas ballet. So many of our traditional Christmas images still hark back to the Victorian era – the tree, the presents, the Dickensian ice and snow - and this ballet taps into all of that, connecting us to the heart of our Christmas fantasies.
The story takes place on Christmas Eve, told in three parts that travel across three visually magnificent settings. The prologue opens with a party, held in the home of the Colonel and his wife that oozes opulence and warmth, from the lustrous chandeliers to the red velvet curtains and gold banquette sofas. Their daughter Clara is delighted to be given the present of an unusual nutcracker in the shape of a handsome soldier and when she falls asleep clutching him in her arms, an adventure begins.
In her dreams, the nutcracker doll is transformed into a handsome prince and together they defeat a frightening army of giant mice, travel to a magical land of ice and snow to meet the Snow Queen in Act One and onwards to the Land of Sweets in Act Two, where they are entertained by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her friends from far off lands. Clara begins to drift off to sleep and in the final scene, the Colonel and his wife find Clara asleep on the drawing room floor and carry her – and her nutcracker - back to bed.
Artistic Director Christopher Hampson has changed little of Darrell’s original choreography, but together with designer Lez Brotherston has transformed the staging to present a beautiful balance of continuity and change. Coincidentally a former pupil of original designer Philip Prowse, Brotherston is best known for his work with Matthew Bourne and has updated Prowse’s vision with his own unique brand of wit and imagination. It is arguably this magic combination of talents past and present that gives this production its gloss and gleam.
Sophie Martin as the Sugar Plum Fairy was delicately playful and Eve Mutso brought strength and grace to the part of the Snow Queen. However, particular credit deserves to go to the children who played such a central role, with Amy Pollock as Clara - who remained on stage throughout – never putting a foot wrong, dancing enchantingly and always engaged with the action, even when required to sit and observe for long periods.
Everything about this production glittered and shimmered with the highest quality, but it was Brotherston’s design that was the real star of this show, giving a great performance a dusting of some proper Christmas sparkle.
Runs until 3rd January 2015