From rehearsal rooms to creating youth collectives and hosting major productions, the Festival City Theatres Trust have worked hard to create something that is both successful commercially and within the community. Film screenings of famous ballets or other theatrical productions (sometimes live, other times pre-recorded) provide the opportunities for audience members from Edinburgh and surrounding areas to see shows they might not otherwise get a chance to catch. One such show was the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker.
Unsure when it was recorded, it is a classic production of Balanchine’s Nutcracker. Performed by the New York City Ballet annually, a friend informed me most classic ballet companies will break out the Nutcracker every Christmas. Our own Scottish Ballet instead presents a new ballet each Christmas, Hansel and Gretel this year, and so if it was not for the screening by Festival Theatre the Scottish audience would not get their ‘annual dose’ of the classical ballet.
One issue with the Nutcracker screening was the blatant racism through the production in Act 2 in the beautiful sweet land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The original production is from 1954 and it is perhaps a reflection of the change in attitudes that I, when watching the recording, found myself feeling overwhelmingly awkward. However given they continuously revive this production annually, and the recording is most likely from last year it should really consider revising some of the costumes for a more equal and modern viewing. The portrayal of Chinese dancers on stage is very much an exaggerated and outdated stereotype and one I would not hope to have found a place in modern society which is why I find it shocking that the choreography and costumes have not been reviewed since the original production.
Apart from this, the talent of the company was overwhelming and the choice to cast Clara and the Nutcracker as children was obviously a different but popular one. The number of children in the cast would provide a fantastic learning opportunity for the children from the New York City School of Ballet and a wonderful Christmas adventure for families to watch them.
The variety of audience members at the screening was warming to see, with all ages, and would prove an enjoyable winter trip out for all ballet lovers.