Life is sweet at Scottish Ballet’s Nutcracker

Scottish Ballet's new production of The Nutcracker.
Scottish Ballet's new production of The Nutcracker.
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THIS year’s Nutcracker from Scottish Ballet is a fascinating affair.

Artistic director Christopher Hampson has revived his predecessor Ashley Page’s much-loved choreography and it’s an interesting take on this most festive of productions.

I last took my children on our annual ballet outing to see it three years ago and although this year the set is scaled down, perhaps as a nod to austerity, it still has the feel and fashions of Weimar Germany. The psychological aspects of the original story are awarded prominence in a move to give added darkness to the traditional tale.

The story is based around the dreams of a little girl who has perhaps overindulged on the Christmas treats and conjures up a wild and strange world of toys and animals that come to life.

The production juxtaposes the beauty and grace of classic dance with frightening images; the masks worn by the Nutcracker and the mouse army cover half of the dancers’ faces in a nightmarish disjoint, a huge rat-like mouse looms over the stage, a baby is bitten by the evil mouse queen and is transformed into a monster. At every turn there is an air of menace which will thrill younger audience members who came expecting sugar plums.

Adolescent boys aren’t known for their love of ballet; my son is no Billy Elliot and has started to get the age where he isn’t likely to admit the annual trip to his school friends.

But all the horror and superb staging effects, which at one point reveal a living tableau inside a human brain, were right up his street. He was even engaged enough to keep his macho huffing to a minimum during the delightfully delicate Dance of the Snowflakes.

When you’re a sophisticated 14-year-old girl like his sister, however, you know that the highlight is going to be the pas de deux, or as my son puts it, the showoff bit at the end.

The two principals put in a fluid and romantic performance, but half the fun as children get older is their ability to recognise up and 
coming talent.

My daughter’s plaudits went to the stunning dance of the flowers, in particular the two courgette flowers whom she hopes to see in next year’s production.

We may enjoy it in different ways, but the sheer spectacle of this year’s ballet guarantees that we’ll all be going again next year, whether we admit it to our peers or not.

• The Nutcracker is at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, from 8-12 January, 7:30pm, matinees 2pm, Thurs and Sat, tickets £14-£38, tel: 0131-529 6000,, and then touring until 9 February,