Is Christmas complete without attending a performance of the Nutcracker in some sort of capacity, whether screened on in the theatre? Scottish Ballet revive their acclaimed production choreographed by the late Peter Darrell, first premiering in 1973 at the Lyceum, at the Festival Theatre this winter. Having undergone a little freshening up it is brought back to life by our national ballet company for the first time in twenty years (having last been outed in 1996-97).
The well-known story and beautiful music will always charm audiences, adults and children alike, and regardless of choreographer the movements are always very similar. They fulfil expectations and usually it is the production, set and costumes that distinguish different performances. Darrell’s is a little more unique as the children of the story, Clara and Fritz, and the party guests/mice, are played by actual children (Scottish Ballet Associates). This gives the production a real authenticity that is denied by other productions having adults reprise the roles of children. Clara, Lily Wearmouth on the 9th, should be commended for her professionality throughout the performance. Although her parts were minimal, especially during Act 2, her poise and grace throughout was rather astonishing. The sweet choreography of the girls versus boys during Act 1 was much appreciated by younger members of the audience as they were inspired by their contemporaries with their trained and well-executed movements.
As you’d hope the Sugar Plum Fairy, Sophie Martin, was incredibly talented. She beguiled the audience and was completely enchanting. Her chemistry with the Prince was appreciated with an incredible duet and their wardrobe were suitable for royalty! The array of characters who appeared for Act 2 in the Land of Sweets performed equally polished pieces in stunning outfits. Thankfully the racist and stereotypical undertones had been avoided by the Scottish Ballet though there were occasions where it lapsed slightly into difficult waters, mainly surrounding the ‘Chinese.’ Marge Hendrick gave a hypnotising performance as the Arabian princess channeling the music and moving with incredible precision and exacting fluid movements. Her appearances stood out throughout Act 2 and were one of the highlights of the whole show. Nicholas Shoesmith as Drosselmeyer brought a maturity to the production with a commanding presence that lifted the ballet to a level where both children and adults could enjoy it.
A wonderful Christmas treat this revival of The Nutcracker is a testament to the Scottish Ballet’s talent as well as to the potential for ballet to charm and captivate its audiences. Tchaikovsky’s music is timeless and the Ballet have brought it to a modern audience in a beautiful respectful piece that does the legacy of the Nutcracker as a festive staple complete justice.