United Kingdom Peter Darrell’s The Nutcracker: Dancers and Orchestra of Scottish Ballet / Jean-Claude Picard (conductor), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 16.12.2014 (SRT)
Peter Darrell (creator and choreographer)
Liz Brotherston (set and costume designs)
Peter Darrell founded Scottish Ballet when he moved his Western Ballet Theatre to Glasgow in 1969. His Nutcracker has been a company classic since 1973, but it has been in hibernation since 1997. It now sees the light of day again in a triumphant re-imagining which retains most of Darrell’s original choreography but brings many new touches to the sets and costumes.
The result is a pretty perfect piece of Christmas entertainment, but also much more than that. Lez Brotherston has done a fantastic job on the sets, suggesting great opulence with some little touches that go a long way. The many drapes and curtains of Clara’s living room show that we are evidently in an opulent household of the Russian rich, and the (high-speed) transformation to the land of the Snowflakes generated a proper gasp when its chilly beauty was revealed. The Kingdom of Sweets itself was beautifully simple with hundreds of Christmas tree baubles hanging from the celining to suggest both the festive timing and the sense of innocent wonder that surrounds it.
His costumes were every bit as successful, be it the Victorian ball gowns for Clara’s family, Drosselmeyer’s sparkly cape or the prinked and gleaming costumes for the Nutcracker and the Sugar Plum fairy. The different nationalities in the second act are drawn clearly but not overdone, with matadors for Spain and fans for the Chinese. Only the Waltz of the Flowers struck me as disappointingly monochrome in the company of what surrounded it.
Darrell’s choreography has stood the test of time rather well. He uses the children to tell the story in the first scene without much in the way of dancing, but the big numbers are marvellous when they arrive. The ensemble for the snowflakes is a masterpiece of symmetry and his national dances were very well drawn, the highlight of which being a superb Arabian Dance from Eve Musto, suggesting an enormous amount from some very discrete movements. I also like the way they structured the second act to culminate in a quick recap of each character, like a friendly wave before reality has to reassert itself in the final scene. Remi Andreoni was a charismatic, vigorous Nutcracker Prince, though ever so slightly unsteady at times. No such complaints of Bethany Kingsley-Garner’s Sugar Plum Fairy, and their pas de deux was, rightly, the highlight of the evening, their lines gradually blending in symmetry and then culminating in some daring leaps that came off very impressively.
The orchestra, too, play very impressively, and Jean-Claude Picard draws out the colours of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score in a way that, at times, is even more magical than what is unfolding on stage. In short, everything about this show works. Enjoyment is all but guaranteed!
Darrell’s The Nutcracker is at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre until 3rd January 2015, then on tour to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle. For full details click here.