Everyone has something that makes them feel specially festive around this time of year. Maybe it’s the Christmas lights going up around London, or your first mince pie, for me it is the English National Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Every year The Coliseum hosts this wonderfully Christmassy show, and this year is their best production yet.
My first experience of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker was at the age of 12, when I performed in the chorus with my choir. We stood in the massive orchestra pit to sing the short snowflake chorus part, which comes just before the interval. I sung in the ENO Nutcracker for the next three or four years, a magical experience; it always felt like the start of the Christmas season for me. When the production changed and they no longer needed children singing live, I was sadly out of a job, so I went to see the ballet instead. This has been a tradition ever since.
Now, at the age of 22 I thought I knew what to expect, but this year was honestly more sublime than all the other productions that have come before it. The show celebrates 60 years of The English National Ballet in true style and splendour. This year the ENO welcomes a new production, a World Premiere - the creative team must be congratulated on their vision, which is perfectly realised on the great Coliseum stage. Wayne Eagling’s choreography is meticulous but measured and shows the dancers to be confident and daring. The players are as stunning as ever, but this year, with a new lease of life from a fresh production, they seem renewed. Even the youngest dancers stand out as having exceptional talent, tip-toeing their tiny feet across the massive stage. I was delighted to find that the production is, once again, using live singing for the snowflake chorus... twenty or so kids stand tall in the box closest to the stage singing their hearts out.
Peter Farmer has created a magical design for the story that plays with the central themes of fantasy and fun without the vulgarity of Gerald Scarfe’s previous production. Last year The Nutcracker had a cartoon feel, this is replaced by Farmer with an image of Victorian elegance, and an air of romantic nostalgia. I am so glad that this classic has been returned to its rightful character, attempts to modernise it damage the magic of the show.
The Nutcracker is on until Thursday 30 December, with Matinee and evening performances on most nights, book tickets here.