Christmas at the London Coliseum means the return of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker, a festive favourite that is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Nutcracker has been at the heart of English National Ballet’s repertoire since the company was established in 1950. The current production, the company’s tenth, dates from 2010. Devised by the artistic director at the time, Wayne Eagling, with designs by Peter Farmer, this interpretation largely follows the traditional scenario but has a few unique flights of fancy mixed in too.
On Christmas Eve, young Clara and her brother Freddie enjoy a party with family and friends. Clara receives a Nutcracker doll as a present but, after a skirmish with jealous Freddie, the doll gets broken and has to be repaired by the mysterious Drosselmeyer. The party ends, the children are sent to bed and Clara has an action-packed dream in which her Nutcracker is attacked by an evil Mouse King. Departures from the traditional narrative in Eagling’s offering include the enchanting addition of a hot air balloon to whisk Clara and her Nutcracker away; horrifying giant mice invading scenes that are conventionally rodent-free; and a Puppet Theatre replacing the customary Kingdom of Sweets in Act Two.
English National Ballet’s talented dancers capture all the requisite wonder and magic of the Christmas staple. Having demonstrated in recent years that they are as adept in contemporary choreography from the likes of Akram Khan as they are in the classics, they assuredly keep this familiar ballet feeling fresh.
‘Tis the season to be silly and this year’s pantomime at Milton Keynes Theatre is a cheerfully chaotic take on Robin Hood.
In time-honoured panto tradition, the action-packed show features colourful costumes and sets, reworked pop songs, men dressed (barely!) as women, slapstick comedy and jokes that push the boundaries of innuendo.
Furthermore, in a more forward-thinking fashion to complement the old-school theatrical magic, Qdos Entertainment also incorporates an innovative 3D cinema interlude and uses thrilling technology to add a life-sized dinosaur to the mix. Madness? Yes, but this is pantomime so anything can happen!
English National Ballet dancers perform emotionally charged choreography with seamless fluidity in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, bringing dazzling decadence, drama and despair to the stage.
The late British choreographer’s intense romance is a classic narrative ballet that is rarely performed regionally. In fact, English National Ballet’s current revival and tour of this MacMillan masterpiece is quite an occasion as the company is presenting it outside London for only the second time in thirty years.
Despite being created in 1974, the three-act tragedy remains a paragon of adult, dramatic dance. Inspired by Abbé Prévost’s notorious 1731 French novel Manon Lescaut and danced to the music of Jules Massenet, MacMillan’s Manon is a balletic interpretation of one of the earliest imaginings of a femme fatale. The choreography boasts substantial principal roles, bustling crowd scenes and enthralling pas de deux highlights. It pushes the boundaries of what ballet is, and should be, to unashamedly explore the darker side of the human condition.
If you love ballet, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to experience Manon – and if you don’t think ballet is for you, it’s even more important to give this powerful production a go.
The latest neoclassical programme from New English Ballet Theatre is The Four Seasons / Remembrance, a stylish double bill that combines the abstract and the historical.
The vibrant young modern ballet company prides itself on creating refreshing new works for developing dancers, thereby furthering the art form and nurturing promising artists. Indeed, artistic director Karen Pilkington-Miksa has been recruiting a fresh batch of dancers each year since founding New English Ballet Theatre in 2011. These dancers receive a twelve-month contract that affords them training and development opportunities with exciting creatives, as well as coveted time spent dancing on tour and in the West End.
While past offerings have thrown a spotlight on emerging choreographers, The Four Seasons / Remembrance features works from established dancemakers Jenna Lee and Wayne Eagling.
War Horse is an extraordinary, emotionally exhausting piece of theatre that embodies both the essence of the equine and the futility of war.
The narrative boldly recounts the universal suffering that the First World War inflicted on men, women, children and the unsung heroes of the war effort – the horses. Ten million people died in the First World War, along with unknown millions of horses. In the carnage of the French battlefields, the 1914–1918 conflict proved to be a horrific experience on both sides of the frontline. Quite simply, there were no winners.
Former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write War Horse after seeing an old painting of a cavalry charge and realising that by describing the experience of the war through the eyes of a horse he could convey the plight of both British and German soldiers.
Noble steed Joey – who is half thoroughbred, half working farm horse – sees the best and worst of humanity throughout the deadly chaos of the First World War. His eventful life begins as a foal on a farm in Devon, where he is lovingly tamed and trained by his young master Albert Narracott.
Devastatingly, the pair are forcibly separated when war is declared as Joey is sold to the Army and shipped off to France. Here, he serves as a British officer’s charger and, after being captured, on the German side. Unable to bear being parted from his cherished companion, Albert lies about his age and enlists with the intention of bringing Joey home. After inspiring everyone he meets, Joey is found wandering and wounded in no man’s land where the story reaches its emotional climax.