REVIEW: Nutcracker


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REVIEW: Nutcracker, English National Ballet – Mayflower.

By Beccy Conway.
(Images by ASH, Arnaud Stephenson, Laurent Liotardo)

Synonymous with Christmas festivity, Nutcracker has been a staple of yuletide tradition for decades. Having been recreated countless times both in the traditional ballet style and in more modern incarnations, there is little doubt that Nutcracker is one of the most beloved ballets worldwide.

This latest production for the 2017 festive season was first premiered in 2010, appearing at the Mayflower in 2012, the first time this Nutcracker was to be performed outside of London. Choreographed by Wayne Eagling, his Nutcracker has since been produced in Amsterdam, Warsaw and Helsinki, and the Mayflower appear thrilled to be hosting the production again this week, prior to the ballet moving to the London Coliseum for the remainder of the season.


Under the Artist Direction of Tamara Rojo CBE, who combines this role with her work as Lead Principal for the ENB, Eagling’s Nutcracker is certainly in safe hands, Rojo herself having danced the role of Clara at the Coliseum to vast critical acclaim.

Designed by the late Peter Farmer, visually Nutcracker is everything one could want of this celebrated ballet. Clara’s grand London home is the picture of Christmas tradition, and is then transformed before our eyes to the sparkling Land of Snow, before Clara, the Nutcracker and Dr Drosselmeyer attempt to escape the clutches of the dastardly Mouse King in a hot air balloon, to delighted applause.


Superbly intricate costumes complete the look of the ballet, with the Sugar Plum Fairy top skirts alone reportedly taking a day to create. A particular favourite moment of mine is the scene in which ice skaters skate across the frozen Thames outside of Clara’s home, the dancer’s shoes cleverly designed to create a convincing illusion of an icy stage.


During the Christmas party scene, in which young Clara and her brother Freddie play with their friends amongst their parents many guests, the stage is brimming with convincing festive merriment, facilitated by the fantastic cast of children from the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. It’s wonderful to see the pleasure of children in the audience as they watch the young dancers on stage, perhaps inspired to follow in their footsteps.


We are lucky in Southampton to have access to a theatre such as the Mayflower, whose stage is large enough to do justice to these kinds of productions; Nutcracker ensemble scenes comprise up to twenty leaping and twirling artists, and the invasion of the Mouse King and his rodent subjects is performed with such intensity that a smaller stage surely could not accommodate it.


The principal leads’ synchronicity is sublime. Rina Kanehara (pictured below) and Aitor Arrieta, jointly awarded the Emerging Dancer Award 2017, hold our captivated attention with apparent ease during their enchanting pas de deux as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince.


Fernando Carratalà Coloma is the epitome of the eponymous Nutcracker during his debut as the infamous character.


Perhaps even more recognisable than the Nutcracker character is the score by Tchaikovsky, performed for us by the esteemed English National Ballet Philharmonic under the Musical Direction of Gavin Sutherland. Initially scorned by Tchaikovsky’s critics, the piece has since grown to be one of the most popular ballet scores ever devised.

The English National Ballet present a production of Nutcracker every holiday season, as has been the company’s tradition since its formation in 1950, and long may it continue. Nutcracker is at the Mayflower until 2 December – unfortunately there are now only single seats available.

Missed out? The production transfers to The Coliseum in London from 13 December until 6 January. Again, you’ll need to be quick though. At the time of writing, there are good seats for matinee performances, but some evening performances have already sold out. MORE DETAILS