The Evening Standard
Eagling sidesteps the problem of telling a coherent story by deciding that the weird bits are a dream experienced by the adolescent Clara on Christmas Eve. But this is the kind of dream that would make Freud himself surrender and resort to homilies about not eating cheese before bedtime. There are death's-head mice with blood-coloured eyes, a nutcracker that transforms back and forth into different soldiers, and a scene where Clara's brother, all grown up, appears in chains, surrounded by odalisques while being whipped by a slave master.
Artistic director Wayne Eagling created his 2010 production in front of cameras, in the magnificent BBC Four series The Agony and the Ecstasy. Having been gripped by this apparently calamitous process, I frankly doubted that there would be much magic onstage. Balloons, yes; skating scenes, yes; mouse fights staged with the precision of Marlborough organising his troops at Blenheim, yes. Tricks, in other words. Window-dressing.
Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov in the Act II pas de deux show once again the special magic that can be created by a mature ballerina with a younger partner. Klimentova’s precise and assured technique is perfectly matched with Muntagirov’s exuberant style. In the Act II divertissements Yonah Acosta (nephew of Carlos) gives a spirited Russian dance, and I especially like the Waltz of the Flowers with its ensemble of male and female dancers.