First of this year’s selection of Nutcrackers to open in London is English National Ballet’s production, new last year.
This is the company’s tenth version of the Christmas classic, which it has presented in London annually since the company was founded (as Festival Ballet) in 1951.
The production was the subject of a BBC documentary, Agony and Ecstasy: A Year of English National Ballet, giving an enlightening view of life behind the proscenium arch, and no doubt helping box office receipts.
After some unusual versions, one with the cast dressed as liquorice all sorts, Wayne Eagling has returned to a traditional form, setting the action in Edwardian times, but with some innovations. The opening scene shows dancers on skates arriving at the Christmas party, and Act I ends with Clara and Drosselmeyer disappearing into the flies on a hot air balloon.
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.
Real life brother and sister Rowan and Lowri Shone are the child Clara and her brother Freddie, and I must mention James Streeter’s likeable performance of the villainous Mouse King. This is a fresh and exhilarating production of an old favourite.