This performance of The Nutcracker Ballet is different. Ashley Page, artistic director of Scottish Ballet, has eschewed the traditional opulent set and chosen instead to place the story in a sparse, surreal environment.
From the very beginning, as Tchaikovsky's overture is being played, the backdrop of a huge figure is seen reclining reading a book as part of her brain is being removed, as if to crack a nut within.
Set during the Weimar Republic at Christmas time, The Nutcracker Ballet, a fairy-tale in two acts, is based on Hoffman's story 'The Nutcracker and the King of Mice'. It revolves around a young girl Marie who has been given a present of a nutcracker doll by her magician godfather, Drosselmeyer.
The tale involves the doll's fights with an army of mice and concludes with the heroine, Marie, awakening from her dream, cradling her beloved nutcracker.
In this production, Page has enhanced the concept of fantasy, taking inspiration from the German Expressionist paintings of the era. The king of mice is a huge figure; characters emerge from an enormous frame at the back of the stage; a large clock is brought on with Drosselmeyer inside; a vast plant pot appears; a baby's head, of grotesque proportions, materialises.
The effect of all this is that the characters of the tale appear to be submerged in this surreal atmosphere, intensifying the concept of a dreamlike fantasy.
Much of the choreography has an ethereal quality and is an effective combination of classical and contemporary techniques.
Claire Robertson, as the heroine Marie, agilely portrays the innocence and exuberance of youth. Glauco Di Lieto as Nutcracker juxtaposes the rigid movements of the doll and his transformation into a human effortlessly. And the grand pas de deux with these principal characters was superb. Indeed as was other dancing. The costumes exude flamboyance and enhance the unworldly nature of the setting. And the standard of the music played by members of the Scottish Ballet orchestra was superb.
This production was first performed in 2003, and although generally the set is sparse its unusual surreal features have set a new standard for this traditional ballet, one which is bound to endure.
Continues at the Festival Theatre until 9 January