The English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is truly enchanting. This year’s show is the ENB’s 10th of Wayne Eagling’s production. Over the years, different productions have interpreted Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet in countless different ways. Having seen a very different version last year, I found the English National Ballet’s more classical production all the more fascinating to watch.
The performance begins by introducing the audience to Clara and her family in a delightful little set (Clara’s bedroom) positioned on the side of the stage. Shortly after, we are taken outside of Clara’s house, where people are skating on the frozen ‘Thames’ and playing in the snow. With the start of the story clearly set, the show moves on to the party.
We see guests appear and presents begin to collect under the glittering Christmas tree. The most notable part of this scene, for me, is the dancer’s costumes. The female dancer’s dresses, in particular, create a beautiful image of flowing skirts. This scene manages to find the perfect balance between acting and dancing. As the festivities continue, the children are each given their presents and Clara receives a Nutcracker doll from a mysterious old family friend, Dr Drosselmeyer. After a rather unfortunate event, Dr Drosselmeyer manages to magically put Clara’s doll back together. The party finally comes to a close and the stage darkens as the children go to bed and the guests go home. A detail here that I enjoyed was being able to see the guests leaving in the snow through Clara’s bedroom window as her maid shut the curtains.
It is from behind these curtains that the Mouse King emerges and begins to dance around a sleeping Clara. The dream begins! Clara is chased all over the stage and is soon joined by giant rats and mice as the living room is transformed into a battlefield. In the midst of the chaos, the Nutcracker, now a dashing soldier, appears to defeat the King. In a battle against the rats, he is injured and everything melts away to leave him and Clara alone onstage as snow begins to drift down.
Now the stage is transformed into a winter wonderland and the audience is delighted by the Waltz of the Snowflakes, one of my favourite parts of the Nutcracker. The snowflakes’ tutus twinkle and shimmer in the light, leaving the audience entranced by the beauty of the dance. Then, in a flash, the Mouse King returns, and he pursues Clara and the Nutcracker through the snow. Dr Drosselmeyer enters the stage with a hot air balloon, which the three then use to escape, with the Mouse King clinging onto one side.
After the interval, the balloon lands and the Mouse King is finally defeated. A magnificent celebration begins and dancers from all over the world representing China, Russia and Spain perform divertissements. I found the Russian dancers’ technicality and display of remarkably high jumps and leaps to be particularly impressive. The stage then turns into a beautiful garden and the dancers then perform the Waltz of the Flowers. This dance exceeds expectations. The costumes are wonderful and flutter around the dancers’ as they move about the stage. After a glittering presentation of perfectly angled arms and legs, the final section brings the audience to a complete hush with its glamour. Clara dances as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Tchaikovsky’s iconic tune echoes around the stage. The daintiness of the music is matched by the Sugar Plum Fairy’s beautiful white and gold tutu. Clara is then joined by the Nutcracker in a magical duet and we watch them glide around the stage.
Suddenly, Clara wakes up back in her bedroom, and we are brought back to that little set in the corner of the stage, realising that the glitter and snow were all just a dream.
A mix of sparkling costumes, intricate sets and beautiful choreography and storytelling, The English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is a must-watch this holiday season.
Tickets: Nutcracker – English National Ballet
Image Credit: Laurent Liotardo
Written by Aishani Chatterjee
Read Aishani’s latest review here A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but with a twist! St.Paul’s Covent Garden (abundantart.net)