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Monty Leigh

Review: THE NUTCRACKER - English National Ballet at the Coliseum

The Nutcracker - English National Opera As it begins to get colder and darker this December, English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is a refreshing reminder of festivity and warmth. However, despite some fantastic performances, the production felt slightly muddled.

Designer Pete Farmer ensures we open with some truly picturesque moments, as revellers glide on ice and open larger-than-life presents. The Christmas images in the first half are truly picture perfect, with the falling of snowflakes and glistening Christmas trees.

Clara (Sophia Mucha) is off to bed, but her brother (Euan Garrett) has just dropped a dead Mouse on her carpet, after breaking her new toy the Nutcracker. The kindly adult, Drosselmeyer, magically fixes the Nutcracker, and Clara's sleep is filled with dreams of the Nutcracker defending her from the plague of mice, whilst turning into a dashing young man, referred to as the Nephew, whom she has a budding crush on.

The dancers performed beautifully, in particular the eye-catching Alina Cojocaru (Clara) and the Cesar Corrales who dances with undeniable power. Other notable performances come from James Streeter who plays a dark version of the Mouse King, complete with jolting movements, and James Forbat.

Despite this, as someone whose ballet experience is limited, I can only go on what I felt – and I felt that the production let the dancers down. There were only a handful of magical moments dotted in the production, for example a huge mousetrap comes onstage (complete with cheese) but these moments were extremely scarce, and that is a shame. The Christmas magic was quickly forgotten.

One must also acknowledge the out dated gender politics of this story; young innocent girls must be playing with dolls only to have their fun ruined by the rambunctious boys with swords, and there's a very uncomfortable Arabian dance complete with whips and dancing slave-girls. The characters are all too stereotypical starting with the senile old woman at the beginning and the drunk old Scotsman.

Despite all this, the wonderful sound of children’s singing during Christmas, and the momentarily silly ice rink were all great festive touches. I must also acknowledge the fantastic delicate work of the Philharmonic orchestra who accompanied it all with Tchaikovsky's sumptuous ballet score.

This version of the Nutcracker has rewarding moments, but it is resting not roaring.

The Nutcracker - ENO