Christmas for the English National Ballet means a resplendent and joyously festive production of The Nutcracker. Since its inception, the much-loved balletic masterpiece has been a mainstay of the company’s repertoire. Created in 2010, Wayne Eagling’s largely unchanged production returns to The Coliseum complete with glistening snowflakes, some ghoulish mice and a generous helping of magic that every Nutcracker needs.
Of course, it is hard to find a Nutcracker without charm. The story of young Clara – who dreams on Christmas Eve that she battles an evil Mouse King, journeys through the snow and becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy – has a wonderfully festive spirit that appeals to young and old alike. And it is set to Tchaikovsky’s sublime score, played in this case to perfection by the orchestra of the English National Ballet under the baton of Simon Thew.
As a child, Clara is danced beautifully by Sereina Mowlem and Freddie by Basil James, both of whom are a credit to the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. Anton Lukovkin is exemplary as the Mouse King, bringing a villainous quality to the role that wouldn’t look out of place in a seasonal pantomime. But it is the sheer excellence of dancers Fabian Reimar as the Nutcracker and Erina Takahashi as Clara/the Sugar Plum Fairy that take your breath away. The exquisite lines they hold and the sheer energy and vigour they put into their performances make them the tour de force of this production.
The opulent scenery and costumes alone hold the audience in a state of enchantment, from a glittering ballroom to a magical snowy land and the frontage of the home, with its frozen pond, are stunning to behold; they are testament to Peter Farmer’s spectacular designs. This largely traditional production stays true to the fairytale essence of the work, appealing to the appreciative family-filled audience – very rarely have I witnessed such a captive audience that were so quiet and transfixed as they were at this performance. Eagling’s production plays it quite safe and perhaps could do more to set it apart from the many incarnations of The Nutcracker that have come before it. That said, the English National Ballet’s version is a beautiful piece of Christmas escapism that will transport you to a magical faraway land.
The Nutcracker is playing at The Coliseum until 4 January. For tickets and more information visit the English National Ballet website.