Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker Festival Theatre

We all have certain things that make us feel that “it really is Christmas”. Whether it be visits to friends and relatives we haven’t seen since last year, decorating a tree, shopping for presents, watching a movie you watch every year…

Many of these things we’ve had to do without due to the pandemic, such are the times in which we live. I confess that the one that hit me very hard was not getting to take a seat in the Festival Theatre for Scottish Ballet’s Christmas production. There are just a few things that remain to remind me of Christmas in Edinburgh in my childhood days, and this is foremost among them.

And my favourite? Always The Nutcracker. Please forgive me for quoting myself here, but when I reviewed this a number of years ago, it went along the lines of “If you are looking for a theatrical experience that the whole family can enjoy, set aside the pantomimes and other such shows – come and be enchanted here. As much, in a way, a Christmas entertainment as a traditional ballet, there is magic in abundance”.

I repeat myself here because these words hold true as much as ever today. What a delight it is to have The Nutcracker back, especially when it is the triumph that this production is. To those of you who might feel put off by the news that there have been a few changes made, fear not. Nothing has been done that detracts from the spectacle. National stereotypes have been subtly updated in one or two cases where the costumes are concerned and Shock! Horror! Drosselmeyer is danced by a woman! While yes, this was originally intended for a male dancer, there is really no reason why this must be so. And when Madeline Squire gives such a wonderful performance – both as dancer and magician – there can surely be no argument against this.

For those who do not know the story: As the Colonel and his family sleep after their Christmas party, young Clara (Caoimhe Fisher) enters a dreamworld where her present of a nutcracker, in the shape of a soldier, is transformed into a handsome prince (a dashing Evan Loudon). Together they journey from the Land of Ice and Snow, presided over by The Snow Queen (a most impressive Grace Horler)) to The Land of Sweets, realm of The Sugar Plum Fairy (an exquisite performance from Marge Hendrick).

And the icing on the cake for me is that the sets are designed by one of my heroes of theatre, Lez Brotherston. Matthew Bourne’s longtime collaborator has produced sets that captivate and delight, and take us right from the family drawing room to the fantastic fairy lands in truly spectacular fashion.

A treat for the eyes and ears, I left the theatre thinking “yes, it really is Christmas”.

Jim Welsh

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