The English National Ballet’s latest take on The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum continues a longstanding festive tradition, and is certainly one to see. Written by Tchaikovsky in 1892, The Nutcracker debuted in the same year at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Now considered a staple in the classic balletic repertoire, The Nutcracker has since undergone several changes; the reigning version dates back to 1957 and was choreographed by David Lichine and designed by Alexandre Benois. This time, the English National Ballet takes choreographic cues from Wayne Eagling and those of design from Peter Farmer.
Set in a typical Christmas setting in London on Christmas Eve, The Nutcracker tells the story of a girl named Clara (played by Erina Takahashi; Clara as a child is played by Sophie Carter) who receives her Christmas present - a Nutcracker doll. Clara has a dream in which her Nutcracker is attacked by the evil Mouse King (played by Daniel Kraus). As midnight strikes, her bedroom undergoes a transformation, and the Nutcracker (played by Skyler Martin) with it. The second act features dancers representing the regions of China, Arabia, Russia and Spain. The Mouse King is eventually defeated, and a joyous celebration follows.
Erina Takahashi and Francesco Gabriele Frola in Nutcracker (c) Laurent Liotardo / English National Ballet
One of the most beautiful parts of the ballet is the pas de deux shared by the Sugar Plum Fairy and the prince, a subtly sensual performance set amid the festive scenery. Their costumes stand out especially, owing to their highly detailed Swarovski-embellished design. Another highlight is the celebration of sweets from four regions of the world - China, Arabia, Russia and Spain. Each features their respective traditional dance, resulting in a oddly inclusive spectacle. Heard throughout is the children’s choir, neatly tucked within the stage's lower balcony, and a complement to the orchestra's symphonic harmony.
The Nutcracker is a magical performance thanks to its inventiveness of costumes, scenery, dance and music, resulting in an ever-charming Christmas tradition.