Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker

December 14, 2014 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆    Sporadic magic

Festival Theatre: Sat 13 Dec 2014 – Sat 3 Jan 2015

The sumptuous, Victorian backdrop to The Nutcracker is entirely appropriate for a production that has much of the appeal of a huge box of chocolates.

However, like those chocolates, it is more delicious in small doses. Taken as a whole, its overall effect can be sickly and lacking in real nourishment.

Amy Pollock as Clara, Jamie Campbell as Fritz with Party Children in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Andy Ross

Amy Pollock (Clara) Jamie Campbell (Fritz) with Party Children. Photo: Andy Ross

Tchaikovsky’s ballet, about a girl transported to magical lands in the company of soldier doll nutcracker who has come to life, is of course a traditional Christmas entertainment. Scottish Ballet have forsaken their more recent, somewhat darker Ashley Page production for a revival of the fondly remembered choreography of their founding Artistic Director, the late Peter Darrell.

There is no doubting the quality of the original choreography, but this revival still has some work to do to come across as being completely necessary.

Erik Cavallari with Sophie Martin. Photo by Andy Ross

Erik Cavallari with Sophie Martin.
Photo by Andy Ross

Erik Cavallari as the Prince with Sophie Martin as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker 2. Photo by Andy Ross

Erik Cavallari with Sophie Martin.
Photo by Andy Ross

This is not necessarily the fault of individual dancers, many of whom are very good indeed. Erik Cavallari (the Nutcracker Prince) is an expansive, open-hearted performer who brings out the best in his partners, whether it is the springily pert energy of Sophie Martin’s Sugar Plum Fairy or the more languid elegance of Eve Mutso’s Snow Queen.

There are some fine performances elsewhere – the various National Dances are consistently interesting, with Luciana Ravizzi’s sinuous Arabian dance and Thomas Edwards’s acrobatic hornpipe particularly striking.

Amy Pollock as Clara, with Remi Andreoni as the Nutcracker Prince, Luciana Ravizzi as the Snow Queen and Company members in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Andy Ross

Amy Pollock as Clara, with Remi Andreoni as the Nutcracker Prince, Luciana Ravizzi as the Snow Queen and Company members in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Andy Ross

The child performers are also remarkable – Jamie Campbell’s petulant Fritz is very good, while Amy Pollock’s Clara, on stage for virtually the whole ballet, is contained, mature and thoroughly impressive.

However, the larger ensembles are not nearly as strong. The opening party scene is well drilled up to the point when the serious dancing starts, but thereafter a certain lack of snap becomes evident. What is worse, there is a lack of togetherness in the second act that leads to the odd unfortunate moment.

conflict of interest

There seems to be a lack of a coherent vision driving the whole performance. Perhaps the determination to be faithful to Darrell’s original choreography has led to a conflict of interest. At times it comes across as more of a tribute act, replaying the content of the older production but lacking an identity of its own.  There certainly seems to be a lack of sparkle and originality at times, for all the quality of many of the performances.

Robyn McKie as Clara, Sophie Martin as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Erik Cavallari as the Nutcracker Prince and Company members in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Andy Ross

Robyn McKie as Clara, with mice. Photo by Andy Ross

Lez Brotherston’s plush sets, notably the Christmas bauble-bedecked backdrop for the second act, provide the appropriate level of glitz. There is no shortage of festive atmosphere, to the point where it threatens to become syrupy. This is no dark reimagining of a fairy tale; there never seems to be any danger. Owen Teale’s magician Drosselmeyer is more kindly than mysterious. Even King Rat seems unthreatening and surprisingly easily dealt with.

As a piece of Christmas entertainment, this ticks many of the right boxes and will surely delight a large proportion of the audience. However, a lack of rigour and some technical faults mean that real magic remains in short supply.

Running time: 2 hours including interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Saturday 13 December 2014 – Saturday 3 January 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinees 2 pm. See website for details.
Tickets from http://www.edtheatres.com/sbnutcracker
Touring details: http://www.scottishballet.co.uk/the-nutcracker/full-booking-details.html

The Nutcracker on tour:
Sat 13 Dec 2014 – Sat 3 Jan 2015 Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Wed 7 – Sat 10 Jan 2015 Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647 Book online
Wed 4 – Sat 17 Jan 2015 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
Wed 21 – Sat 24 Jan 2015 Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234 234 Book online
Wed 11 – Sat 14 Feb 2015 Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
Sophie Martin as the Sugar Plum Fairy with the Company in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Andy Ross.

Sophie Martin as the Sugar Plum Fairy with the Company in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Andy Ross.

ENDS

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