What stands out about Scottish Ballet is the absolute joy with which they approach their productions. They have unending reserves of verve, creativity and comic inventiveness. It’s a refreshing contrast to some of the technically correct Russian ballet companies who one suspects spend their down time living in noirish black and white.
Scottish Ballet: The Nutcracker, Festival Theatre
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Reviving Ashley Page’s 2003 interpretation of The Nutcracker, there are seasonal gifts aplenty for ballet lovers and Monty Python fans alike.
Although darker than many adaptations of this usually sugar-coated Christmas favourite, there are still nods to the season and a faithful adherence to oversize Christmas trees, children’s gifts and orgiastic feasting. In fact, there is a distinct emphasis on adult sauce, particularly in the 1920s-inspired world inhabited by young Marie and her family. The unexpected and continuous display of frilly knickers by the two household maids makes it difficult to focus on anything else happening in the auditorium.
Hovering in the background are glimpses of other, more dramatic things going on through the large window in the centre of the stage, almost as if the set is in fact a doll’s house. Anyone familiar with Spiny Norman the Hedgehog will be pleasantly surprised by the Terry Gilliam-esque goings-on as the evening progresses.
The use of masks to deform the unfortunate victims of Sophie Laplane’s malevolent Dame Mouserink is striking, The Nutcracker’s face dramatically changing as the story of how he came to be a humble doll unfolds.
Credit must also go to Luciana Ravizzi and Lewis Landini for their turns as Marie’s party-mad parents and as performers in the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer’s play during Act One.
Focusing on ETA Hoffmann’s original tale The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, the narrative is tight and directed, although it means that the final divertissement of international dances feels rather incongruous, even though the dances are beguiling and eye catching. The Arabian dance, in particular makes way for some inventive interaction between three male dancers and the lithe Ravizzi.
The production is only really placed back on track by a spellbinding Grand Pas de Deux by Bethany Kingsley- Garner and Eric Cavallari.
• Run ends Saturday