The Nutcracker – Festival Theatre

Choreography by Peter Darrell

Music by Pytor Ilych Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tchaikovsky’s timeless spectacle conjures an eternal wonderment that few can rival. His synonymous piece of dance echoes through the ages, The Nutcracker, a realm of fairies and rat kings, beauty and trickles of playful joviality – and on occasion – a spot of fright. The beating pulse of Christmas for many, Scottish Ballet’s Nutcracker will speak to all ages and experiences of dance – from the twinkle toes to the left footers, there’s something to enjoy and appreciate.

On Christmas Eve, as the wine sparkles and the fire roars – the Colonel and his wife host a party for friends, family, and a few special guests. Their children, Clara and Fritz, are your normal kids – foolhardy, imaginative and given to the excitement of the holidays. But a peculiar charge descends on the household, as the magician Drosselmeyer – a mysterious magician – arrives to provide entertainment. Gifting Clara a Nutcracker, and with the party dwindling, Clara sneaks back downstairs to play with this new gift, soon falling into a deep sleep – awakening in a world Drosselmeyer has woven, where the Nutcracker is alive, and the party continues.

From the lunging movements of harlequins to the precision pointe of prima sugarplums, Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Peter Durrell’s choreography of the show is the glittery beauty to the already luscious set dressings. Weaving multiple forms of Ballet and dance through the production, with notable Eastern European and classical influences for moments of the Jesters or Snow Queen, The Nutcracker is a perceptible example of the exemplary skill of the troupe. Lifts are minimal but carry weight and purpose, to frame Marge Hendrick and Grace Horler perfectly in form.

Regular watchers of Scottish Ballet will recognise the wonderment and enchanting presence of principals Evan Loudon and Marge Hendrick, the pair capturing frozen points in time of the joy in Clara’s dreams. Squire’s position of Drosselmeyer, illusionist extraordinaire, is a playful role and incorporates the movement accordingly, confident yet moving in a less traditional, almost otherworldly showmanship manner. From the world of the Snow Queen to the Rat King’s Lair, much of the narrative remains unaltered – with a few necessary exceptions.

Revision of the past upsets’ folk, but where necessary to progress and develop productions beyond their previous incarnations – it is a necessity. Of the minor changes required, Scottish Ballet alters stereotypical elements while retaining trace elements of individual performances and sequences. Is much missed? Not at all. The removal of such scenes speaks to the character and diverse inclusivity of the company while maintaining the dignity of the original Nutcracker. The Tea Dance, a small but classic piece, is still found but updated to reflect a more contemporary and current understanding.

And dignity is what this production excels with, an honest and technically exquisite show which continues to demonstrate the stringent talent and fluidity of Scottish Ballet. In elements, the showcase comes over as a show-reel, as scenes dip in and out on rotation – slowing the pace. Peculiar, given the scenic transitions crafting an enchantment to the evening thanks to Lez Brotherson’s set and George Thomson’s lighting. True to the Magician’s tricks, a curtain, illuminated by the moon and stars, glides over the stage to move us from the opulent manor home to the world of sugarplums and ice. Between the acts, the production moves from the dreamscape to a land of sweets, richly decorated with glinting, glittering baubles.

Sensational too is the live orchestra, perhaps missed more so than the live dancers through the absence of live in-person theatre. The Festival Theatre was built to carry sound – and The Nutcracker delivers. Every note of composition causes ripples through the audience, a score so recognisable that the first notes enough to bring a smile to cold, disheartened faces.

Classy, elegant, and a spectacle of illusion – The Nutcracker retains its grace into this revived production, revised to dignify modern audiences. Hampson and Darrell’s The Nutcracker is a quintessential demonstration of talent and spectacle, and what it may lose in innovative work in the contemporary field, it makes up for with magic, enjoyment and thrill.

The Nutcracker runs at the Festival Theatre until December 31st. Ticket for which can be obtained here.

Further information about Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker can be viewed here.


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