Christmas is a busy time for the nation’s theatres.
Seasonal offerings generally fall into one of two camps: panto or ballet. Pantos are literally dime a dozen in Glasgow; however, the Theatre Royal has opted to buck this citywide trend and instead stages an annual ballet. This year, Scottish Ballet are treating patrons to their interpretation of The Nutcracker.
I love a panto (oh, yes I do!) but feel it’s more of a friends and family kind of outing. Finding myself with a free afternoon in the run-up to Christmas, I purchased a solo ticket for the ballet on something of a whim. Matinée audiences are always a little different from their evening counterparts. Judging from the rustling of John Lewis carrier bags, I would bet that many of my fellow theatre-goers had spent the morning doing a little last-minute gift shopping…
I saw Matthew Bourne’s version of the show back in February, so it was interesting to compare and contrast with Ashley Page’s choreography for Scottish Ballet. I’m no expert but this production seemed more traditional, at least in the tights and tutus sense. Nevertheless, there was an underlying darkness and sense of menace.
Costume and design were real winners. The action was set in the Weimar Republic of 1920s Germany and the costumes referenced that era with slinky flapper dresses, cigarette holders and Louise Brooks-inspired bobs. The set design incorporated surrealist touches: Herr Drosselmeyer reclining in a pocket watch; a cartoon mouse peeking through the window; a giant-headed infant in a pram.
In terms of the score, most of the “hits” come in Act 2. The Maltester-rattling group of ladies in the row behind were concerned with the intricacies of the plot but, for me, the set pieces were simply a chance to sit back and enjoy the magic of dance. With a witty nod to the 1920s setting, some Charleston steps found their way into the choreography. Otherwise, it was all what you would expect from The Nutcracker: pointe shoes, snowflakes, pirouettes, a pas de deux. The overall effect was so relaxing that (despite the lashing rain) I floated out of the theatre on a cloud of loveliness and promptly fell asleep on the train journey home.
My verdict? If the countdown to Christmas is leaving you feeling frazzled and worn, you could do a lot worse than treat yourself to a ticket for The Nutcracker. I’m pretty sure that an afternoon spent in a darkened theatre is a more effective stress buster than lighting a cheap scented candle or falling face first into a tin of Quality Street.
December 2013 will see Scottish Ballet’s new Artistic Director, Christoper Hampson, flex his creative muscles in a festive production of Hansel & Gretel. The poster is gorgeous – I can hardly wait.