The Nutcracker

December 3, 2021 | By More

★★★★☆  Seasonal feast

King’s Theatre: Wed 1 – Fri 31 Dec 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

Scottish Ballet’s much-loved version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is back at the Festival Theatre over Christmas. This time round, it seems reinvigorated and remarkably fresh.

The story of the nutcracker magically transformed into human form, who leads its young owner Clara into battle against King Rat and then in a journey to the Land of Sweets, has become an established part of Christmas. This production is based on the familiar choreography originally conceived by Scottish Ballet’s founding director Peter Darrell.

First Artist Madeline Squire as Drosselmeyer in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Pic: Andy Ross

Recent publicity has centred on the changes made to some of the national dances in the second act, with current artistic director Christopher Hampson overseeing the removal of outdated stereotypes. This desire to add authenticity and ensure more equitable representation has undoubtedly been a benefit.

Indeed, a considerable air of renewal permeates a production that may just have been trading on its reputation a little in recent times. A drive and snap to the dancing never overshadows the individuality of the performers but provides a welcome cohesion, the ensemble pieces in particular having a wonderful unity.

narrative flow

This, in turn, has the effect of providing a narrative flow to a story that can often appear as a series of unconnected set pieces. Lez Brotherston’s set may still occasionally look like Christmas overkill, with its thousands of baubles threatening to draw the eye from the performers, but there is a vigour to this production that cuts through the potential sickliness.

Evan Loudon’s athleticism as the Nutcracker Prince has a lot to do with this, and his pas de deux with Marge Hendrick’s outstanding Sugar Plum Fairy is a particular joy. No less impressive is Grace Horler’s elegant Snow Queen.

Principal Evan Loudon as The Nutcracker Prince in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Credit Andy Ross

The added thought given to the parade of dances in the second act has certainly borne fruit, but the highlight has to be the supremely energetic hornpipe of Thomas Edwards.

Another welcome tweak is the casting of a female Drosselmeyer. There is absolutely no reason why the role should not be female, and Madeline Squire provides just the right amount of enigmatic cape-swirling, giving an air of knowing otherworldliness.

suitably boisterous

An extremely composed performance by Caoimhe Fisher as Clara helps to knit the whole thing together. Benjamin Brett is suitably boisterous as her brother Fritz, and there is a poise to all of the young performers that reinforces the consistent nature of the whole production.

How heartening, furthermore, to see the return of a full orchestra, playing with sprightly dynamism under the baton of Jean-Claude Picard.

Some of it still comes across as a little disconnected, and anyone who wonders quite why The Nutcracker has become such a seasonal tradition will probably not be won over by the OTT glitziness of the design. For anyone who takes joy in good dancing, however, this is a delight.

Running time 2 hours 5 minutes including one interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street, EH8 9FT
Wednesday 1 – Friday 31 December 2021
Evenings Wed-Sat at 7.30 pm (except 24, 31); Matinees Thu, Sat, Sun (and 17, 21, 22) at 2.30 pm; 24, 31 at 1.30 pm.

Information and tickets: Book here.

Chloe Macduff as Clara in Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker. Pic: Andy Ross

ENDS

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  1. Lyzzie Dell says:

    As well as the delightful performance,I would like to make special mention of the costumes…beautiful.
    Also loved all the “business” in the party scene…in particular the children.