Prepare to be swept up in the magic of Christmas as English National Ballet brings its sparkling production of Nutcracker to Milton Keynes Theatre from Wednesday.
The dancers of English National Ballet spent last week wowing audiences at Sadler’s Wells with Akram Khan’s Giselle. Now, they are rehearsing the company’s Nutcracker – a dazzling festive favourite guaranteed to enchant family members of all ages – to ensure their usual superb technique and artistry is showcased at its very best.
Masterful Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score, Wayne Eagling’s exuberant choreography and Peter Farmer’s exquisite designs effortlessly transport us to a frost-dusted Edwardian London in Nutcracker.
It is Christmas Eve and young Clara is thrilled to receive a painted wooden nutcracker doll from a rather mysterious relative who attends her parents’ seasonal soiree. When she creeps downstairs in the middle of the night to check on her special gift, she discovers that the now-empty living room is not the safe haven it used to be. Something is amiss.
The clock strikes midnight and Clara finds herself battling with a terrifying Mouse King before meeting a handsome stranger and being whisked off to the glistening Land of Snow. With more surprises to come, the only certainty is that this fantasy world is full of adventures.
The storyline of the Nutcracker ballet has traditionally been open to interpretation and many different versions exist. In English National Ballet’s current offering (Wayne Eagling’s 2010 production), the tale conjures up the glittering magic of Christmas while simultaneously retaining a darker side.
Rather than the Mouse King being immediately defeated, his threatening presence is felt throughout the whole ballet. Of course, good does triumph over evil in the end (this is a family show!). Nonetheless, the dash of danger tempers the fanciful indulgence of the gliding Snowflakes and the vibrant divertissement dances – not to mention the unique extravagance of having Clara and her companion soaring skyward in a charming hot air balloon.
For theatregoers in need of an unforgettable festive treat, this Nutcracker will be a dream come true.
English National Ballet’s Nutcracker comes to Milton Keynes Theatre from Wednesday 23 to Saturday 26 November 2016.
*Production photography courtesy of Photography by ASH.
*Promotional image of Clara and her Nutcracker Doll by Jason Bell.
An abridged version of this preview features in the Milton Keynes Citizen GO.
I also wrote a preview for Total MK.
Update 25 November 2016: Read my review of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.