Dance review: The Nutcracker, English National Ballet

Joy Sable enjoys a cracking night out


The English National Ballet’s Nutcracker has made its annual return to the London Coliseum. It is a much newer version than the one currently being performed just half a mile away at the Royal Opera House, and even if the Royal Ballet’s production is the definitive traditional staging, this one, with choreography by Wayne Eagling, has much to admire.

The opening scene has a real wintery feel with party guests arriving on skates, wrapped up against the chill of the night (and the air conditioning was on full blast in the auditorium, which added to the effect). The sets and costumes in the first act are particularly lovely, with women in elegant gowns of the Edwardian era. Clara is played in the initial scenes by a child (Sophia Mucha on the opening night) and has a brat of a brother (Emile Gooding, making the most of his role).

Eagling’s production is quite dark at points – the rats look menacing and are part of Clara’s nightmare. They dominate the beginning of the second act too, making an unwelcome appearance in the famous Waltz of the Snowflakes, before finally being dispatched by the Nutcracker.

The scenario lacks the clarity of the Royal Ballet’s version, but there are some magical and amusing moments: when the tiny toy Nutcracker begins to walk across the stage by itself; when a giant mousetrap launches a piece of cheese as a lethal weapon, and a huge balloon which soars across the sky, bringing the first act to a close.

Praise to Shiori Kase who danced the older Clara on the opening night and made a glamorous Sugar Plum Fairy. In Joseph Caley she had an excellent, secure partner. They both ended their difficult variations spot on.  Names to mention include Daniel McCormick in the Spanish Dance – all flashing eyes and stamping feet – and Alison McWhinney in the Mirlitons Dance. Her precise and speedy footwork was a joy to behold.

Nutcracker by English National Ballet is at the London Coliseum until 6 January 2018.

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