Forget Santa Claus coming, forget presents waiting to be unwrapped, Christmas is here already and on stage at The Festival Theatre in Scottish Ballet's wonderful re-imagining of Peter Darrell's classic interpretation of The Nutcracker. This performance is pretty much a classic Christmas fantasy come to life, a sort of vintage Christmas chocolate tin scene opening up before your eyes on stage.
This work is basically artistic director Christopher Hampson taking the original much loved work by Peter Darrell and bringing the production up to date with the help of amazing set and costume designer Lez Brotherston, while at the same time returning to the original dance notation to preserve (and slightly update in parts) the original essence of the work.
The sets and costumes are amazing for this show. The sets take the audience into a Christmas/Winter fantasy land and the costumes look amazing and very expensive. Designing costumes that look authentic but allow a dancer to move is a skill in itself. At every stage of the production tonight it is obvious that there are a lot of people involved in the sets and costumes who are taking great care to ensure that nothing is left to chance. Every aspect of this production is being lovingly watched over in great detail.
The opening scene for the Christmas Eve drawing room is outstanding, with wonderful costumes and a magical Drosselmeyer appearing at the party. It is of course the children that drive the first act and that is mainly Clara (Amy Pollock) and her brother Fritz. Clara delights tonight as she dances and takes us into the fairy tale lands with her Nutcracker present.
This is a ballet though and outstanding set and costume production means little if the dancers let it all down on stage. Thankfully, you know whenever you go to see any production by Scottish Ballet that this is a truly international and world class company that you are going to see perform on stage. Tonight the principal male role of The Prince was danced by Erik Cavallari and The Sugar Plum Fairy danced by Sophie Martin. Erik Cavallari somehow makes moves requiring incredible power look effortless, and Sophie Martin (playing this role for a fifth time) seems at time to float on stage.
One of the nicest things about The Nutcracker is that so much of the first act is mostly a children's ballet. The Nutcracker allows very young dancers to be on stage with professional dancers in a full stage production and maybe allow some of them to dream of one day becoming a principal dancer. In the case of Scottish Ballet principal dancer Christopher Harrison this is a dream that came true for him, having beeen a Nutcracker mouse as a child. Ballets like The Nutcracker allow the next generation of dancers to develop and come forward to an audience. More importantly, it lets young dancers believe that dreams can come true.
Even with the amazing dancers, sets and costumes, The Nutcracker would not be what it is without the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky. The music for The Nutcracker is simply the work of a master at his peak (even if the great man had some doubts himself about this one). There is music here that almost everyone will know at least a little of such as the classic "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy". My own favourite from this ballet though is" Intrada" for the Pas de Deux of Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. This is just a beautiful piece of music that I could listen to over and over.
If you have seen this ballet before in previous versions, go and see this "re-imagined" performance as it is stunning. If you think going to a ballet is not for you then take a chance, buy a ticket and go and see what is simply a great Christmas show.
Review by Tom King