Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a wondrous and playful production hitting all the festive soft spots with panache. Set in the 1920s, the traditional tale is given a stylish edge with beautiful costume design and inspired, eccentric choreography. Mod in set design and charmingly abstract, designer Juliette Blondelle plays with scale, utilising cartoonish illustrations which provide at varying intervals the backdrop, foreground, props and even add character to the production. The beautiful fairytale atmosphere isn’t forgotten and intermingles quirkily with these new additions, adding a touch of spice to typical Christmas festivities.
The story alas isn’t rendered as clearly as the aesthetic. It’s a struggle to glean much, if any plot, which from such a well-known tale is an extraordinary feat. The achievement however lies in the production’s capacity to be so enjoyable in spite of this confusion. The performances are charismatic and at times electrifying. Sophie Laplane as Dame Mouserink is a stand out performer for her power and sensuality, while Frau Stahlbaum (Luciana Ravizzi) gives an equally compelling performance, entrancing and symbiotic as part of a truly astonishing trio in the second half. The leads (Claire Robertson and Erik Cavallari) are suitably charming, offering a welcome contrast to their sizzling co-stars. The crucial element to the piece however remains the music. Tchaikovsky’s supremacy is respected and the production benefits enormously from its live orchestra. This onstage chemistry between musicians and dancers creates a sparkle which goes beyond the glittery snow-topped fir trees, beyond a plot which is obscure and leads the audience into a land of dream and make-believe – fully absorbed in the fairytale – until the final curtain call.