Ballet review: The Nutcracker, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

The Nutcracker dress rehearsal at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, with Amy Pollock as Clara. Picture: Neil Hanna
The Nutcracker dress rehearsal at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, with Amy Pollock as Clara. Picture: Neil Hanna
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For some, it will be a journey down memory lane, for others, a voyage of discovery. But for pretty much everyone, watching Scottish Ballet’s opulent new production of The Nutcracker will be an enjoyable experience.

The Nutcracker - Edinburgh Festival Theatre

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It’s just over 40 years since the late Peter Darrell first unveiled his version of the perennially popular ballet. The bedrock of the company’s repertoire for two decades, it was brought out on numerous occasions, building up a legion of fans, many of whom will be checking out this new, “re-imagined” production to see if Darrell’s legacy has been paid due respect.

It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking it hasn’t.

Philip Prowse’s original designs have been faithfully restored, using better and brighter materials, by talented set and costume designer Lez Brotherston.

Gorgeous Victorian bustle dresses hang from the women, hundreds of colourful, shiny baubles hang from the ceiling.

Everything and everyone looks as if it has dropped off the front of a Christmas card.

Darrell’s steps have been left pretty much intact, as has the romantic pas de deux originally created by Lev Ivanov in 1892.

In short, this is a ballet unafraid to embrace tradition, acknowledging that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Mindful that not everyone who comes to the theatre at Christmas is looking for wall-to-wall choreography, Darrell imbued his Nutcracker with real theatricality. Barely a move is danced for the first ten minutes, and even then, it’s a social partner dance, not pretty pointe work (although plenty of that follows).

With so many young people in the audience, Darrell astutely made the ballet a real family affair. Children love watching other children, and much of the first half is devoted to a Christmas party filled with magic tricks, presents and food. Girls tolerate the shenanigans of little brothers, and the boys try unsuccessfully to stay out of trouble.

A mix of drama and charm follows, as King Rat and the Soldiers battle it out, while cute mice show off their over-sized cheese and fruit.

Once we enter the Land of Ice and Snow, however, the real dancing kicks in. Falling snow mixes with Tchaikovsky’s exquisite score and those who have come looking for classical ballet in all its glory are richly rewarded.

Sophie Martin, a dancer incapable of dancing an imperfect step, shines as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and we’re all released back into the world, hearts sufficiently warmed.

Darrell would be proud.

Seen on 13.12.14, until 3 January