Dancing through three worlds at Eden Court with Scottish Ballet's The Nutcracker
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REVIEW: Scottish Ballet's The Nutcracker
It’s quite a trick to pull off, to transport your audience back to the full magic of Christmas in the depths of January.
Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker did it with the Eden Court stage transformed into a snow globe of wintry delights.
The sumptuous rich colours of a Victorian drawing-room Christmas party with its warm lights contrasted with the firmament of lacy ice crystals that dominated the Snow Queen’s kingdom, before the chills gave way to the parallel world of the Land Of Sweets with its backdrop of colourful Christmas baubles.
Lez Brotherston’s designs do a lot of the work of creating a feast for the eyes. But among this production’s box of delights is real magic which manifests early. Magician Drosselmeyer set the scene, flourishing his sparkling blue-lined cloak to 'disappear' a street boy, replacing him with Evan Loudon as a masked male dancer leading the magician’s party entertainers
The young dancers playing the party guest children kept our eyes busy in the opening scene as they chased around with Clara’s brother Fritz (Joseph Zhi Feng Lai) doing his best to disrupt the smooth-running evening, in contrast to charming Clara herself (Ava-Lily Reid).
And if the good girls dancing nicely with their dolls struck a strangely old-fashioned note in these gender-aware times, the slightly anarchic fun being had by the children’s two elderly aunts (Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Madeline Squire) signalled there is no age barrier to being a wild child in later years.
As well as telling its Christmas fantasy, this ballet is also a wonderful chance to showcase many dancers in the company. And though some of the dances in the second half are quite slight, they give individual talents the chance to alert audiences to look out for them in the next production.
Roseanna Leney – who played Clara and Fritz's graceful mother in the first act – transforms into the alluring Arabian dancer in the Land of Sweets, first unwrapped like a gift from a huge sparkling shawl before being carried off in it again at the end of her dance by four male dancers. In between there was the chance to marvel at the physical feats dancers often show alongside their mastery of ballet technique. In this case, just how did the dancer make her arms seem so sinuous and fluid?
And another moment like that where your mouth falls open at the physical control, was where the Sugar Plum Fairy (Marge Hendrick) appeared on stage standing upright on the arms of the Nutcracker prince (Evan Loudon).
In this production, ears as well as eyes were kept busy, with the return of the Scottish Ballet Orchestra to power up Tchaikovsky's music. And, at times in the Eden Court orchestra pit, conductor Jean-Claude Picard could be seen performing his own physical workout as he got into the music!
The changes made in the interests of diversity to this production were subtle, but important – and part of Scottish Ballet's constant push to evolve in a changing world.
For this production of The Nutcracker, the endeavour of all the talented and creative people involved in its making deserves a box of those giant Quality Street-style chocolates we gasped at in Act One! MC