(Not really a) Review: The Nutcracker, English National Ballet at the Coliseum

As a child, it just wasn’t Christmas in our family without a trip to the ballet, but this is not a tradition that I have maintained, largely because it is not an art-form that has wormed its way into my heart as theatre has. I don’t dislike it, but I just don’t have the same passion and so it is a rare occasion indeed that I would venture to the ballet these days. But it turns out I am more a creature of tradition than I had realised and when the opportunity to see The Nutcracker, danced by the English National Ballet, presented itself, I couldn’t resist. But given my lack of knowledge in the field and the presence of much greater commentators than I just a click away, this is just a collection of thoughts rather than a review per se.
As is often the case when revisiting things from the past, it just didn’t live up to expectations: it generally lacked the magic that I remembered from my childhood: whether this is just rose-tinted on my part or a genuine reflection of this production, I’m really not sure, I rather imagine it will be something of a mixture of both. There were only really two moments that caught my undivided attention: the skating on the frozen path in act I and the pas de deux where Clara and Drosselmeyer’s nephew, Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov, danced the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince with huge flair and showiness.

Elsewhere it just came across as a bit too confused: the role of Drosselmeyer is diminished almost to the point of irrelevance, but he is still forced to hang around, introducing each act in the Land of the Sweets (and I must say I wasn’t keen on the applause after each one, is that usual?). The way in which the Nutcracker and the nephew kept switching from one to the other just left me perplexed: in retrospect we discussed that it was obviously part of showing Clara’s subconscious mixing up the two, but it really was not clear that this was what they were trying to achieve. The forced comic stylings of the Mouse King left me cold and the battle lacked real focus, but I did enjoy the contributions of the younger cast members, especially the young Clara and nephew.

All told, I left the Coliseum a little disappointed but ultimately, not really that surprised. The world of traditional ballet productions is not one that fills me with the same wonder that it did as a boy and without the sterling recommendation of those in the know, I don’t think I’ll be rushing back in a hurry, there’s always too much theatre to see in any case!

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £6
Booking until 30th December

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