Review: Scottish Ballet – The Nutcracker (4 stars)

Scottish Ballet breathe spectacular new life into Peter Darrell's 1973 version of The Nutcracker

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Review: Scottish Ballet – The Nutcracker

credit: Scottish Ballet

It’s an odd little story, The Nutcracker ballet. On Christmas Eve, Clara is given the gift of a wooden man who comes to life after midnight to lead her into a strange land. Some choreographers use it as a springboard to explore Freud, some to riff on ideas about childhood. In Peter Darrell’s version, created in 1973 and given a lavish design overhaul by Lez Brotherston, the story is kept as classic as can be, rooting the ballet in what it’s really all about: spectacle.

The result is a production as rich to the eyes as a box of tissue-wrapped chocolates. In the opening prelude we peep behind enormous doors into a red interior that breathes warmth and magic; when the curtain lifts, it is onto the most indulgent Victoriana scene imaginable, heavy with fringed drapes, gold globed chandeliers, bustles and diamonds. There isn’t a huge amount of dance to be seen in the prologue, but handing the roles of the children over to real children – all brilliant and step-perfect – creates a kind of masque that feels authentic and honest.

When the Nutcracker leads Clara into the Land of Ice, Darrell’s choreography comes into its own. Though coated in tutus, stockings and glitter, the dance manages to be classical yet warm and alive. Arms are soft when opening, spins take you by surprise with their speed and direction.

In the Land of Sweets, the Russian dancers swing recklessly in medieval jester-pointed hats. Eve Mutso sprinkles queenly glamour on the Arabian sweet with sensual snake wrists and pharaonic hands.

Sugar Plum Fairy Constance Devernay looks born to dance en pointe – as if that’s how she potters about her sugar plum house all day. Tchaikovsky’s score meanwhile, in short show-stopping bursts, makes this a ballet that even children with bite-size attention spans will gobble up.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, until Sat 3 Jan 2015; Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Wed 7–Sat 10 Jan 2015.

Scottish Ballet's The Nutcracker

  • Written by: Peter Darrell

Peter Darrell’s magical world of The Nutcracker has been reimagined by Olivier Award winning designer Lez Brotherston, bringing a new sheen to this classical 40-year-old adaptation. Booking is essential.

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