Reviews of the English National Ballet's Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker is a core part of English National Ballet, which dances it every Christmas. The current staging has muddled storytelling, with some bizarre divertissement dances and a confusing switch in the hero’s identity. Peter Farmer’s costumes are pretty, with Edwardian party dresses and sparkly tutus, but his scenery is drab.
There are nice touches. I love the skating guests, the colourful hot air balloon, the pretty Mirliton and the way the wicked mice knock over the soldiers like skittles with a piece of flying cheese. But overall confusion reigns. That the evening remains a pleasure – and it does – is entirely down to the charm, warmth and skill of ENB’s dancers, particularly Daria Klimentova as the adult Clara and Vadim Muntagirov as her idealised Prince.
The Arts Desk
There has been ample time since for polishing, but no amount of polishing can fix structural flaws, and this ballet has a fatal one in the shape of its frankly bizarre story treatment. It’s not uncommon to have two versions of Clara and two Nutcrackers, but the half-time switch-around here is awkward, disrupting the flow of the story as well as the audience’s relationship to the characters. The survival of the Mouse King (pictured below) until well into the second act (he normally snuffs it after a 10-minute battle in Act One) is also regrettable; its tepidly evil capers are distracting rather than diverting.
ENB dances Wayne Eagling’s version of the story, the creation of which was agonisingly depicted in the BBC’s Agony and Ecstasy docu-series in 2011. It’s easy to see why, in a nut-heavy market, Eagling felt the need to update the story and structure – but not all of his updates are improvements.