By Bethan Sullivan
The beauty of a ballet is always amplified at Christmas. Bringing in huge audiences with a mutual festive spirit, the Nutcracker is the show to see this season, and the English National Ballet do it better than any. Performed at the Coliseum it’s a hard feat to outshine the splendour of the building. The huge dome and breath taking architecture is the perfect host for the many Opera shows that are performed throughout the year, and could easily mask performers with its grandeur. However, once the conductor picks up his baton, the velvet curtains rise, and the performers truly make the stage their own.
The fresh artistic direction by Tamara Rojo coupled with the familiar thrills of Tchaikovsky’s score creates a perfect landscape for the dancers to thrive. Keeping to its traditional roots the ballet manages to stay refreshingly relevant. Such a well-known piece of theatre always generates a level of expectation, and this two hour performance did not fail to deliver. Sticking to Ernest Hoffman’s German folk tale, the first act of the show revolves around the magical story of a family on Christmas Eve, attending a party where presents are given to the children. Later that evening Clara, the youngest daughter of the family, dreams of a world where her favourite present, a toy soldier, comes alive and battles the evil Rat King. The first half is easily the most attractive with regards to design. Designer Peter Farmer relays the plot with some magnificent set design and it seems no expense has been spared. Many intricate backdrops are used throughout to offset the scenery upon which ice skaters, shadow puppets and even a small cavalry dance. As Act One draws to a close a huge hot air balloon rises into the air, upon which the Rat King dangles from menacingly.
If the first act is elevated by design, then the second surely celebrates the pure ability of the dancers. With minimal narrative, choreographer Wayne Eagling uses intricate and daring pieces to showcase dances from all over the world. The choreography is demanding and there are nine dancers just for the one Sugar Plum Fairy. The solo performances between Clara and her Prince are spectacular, however the precision of the chorus reveals the real professional level of the performance as the stage is filled with dancers all moving as one.
With just a three week slot at the Coliseum, The Nutcracker is an indulgent Christmas show that bursts onto the stage and then disappears with a flourish for another year. Nothing is done by halves, each costume is painstakingly perfected until it is stage ready: £10,000 was spent on Swarovski element for the Sugar Plum Fairies dresses alone. Every move from the people on and off stage cries precision as they regale the story that has captivated audiences for over 100 years. With its last performance on the 5th of January I’d highly recommend snapping up tickets for this family friendly show.