Nutcracker is one of the only production’s in English National Ballet that current Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo has not revamped in her tenure thus far. Wayne Eagling’s reimagining of this Christmas classic first debuted in 2010 and now on it’s seventh outing at the London Coliseum, still manages to evoke some festive magic thanks to a talented cast. However this particular telling of the story is a little too muddled and a little too creatively bland to cement itself as a classic in audience’s minds.
Alina Cojocaru is effortlessly dazzling in the lead role of Adult Clara. She brings a wonderful child-like innocence to the stage but simultaneously dances with great ease and control that puts one immediately at ease. In contrast to the experience of Cojocaru, Cesar Corrales youthful energy and impressive leaps make him a commanding Nutcracker and this ying to Cojocaru’s yang work well to make an engaging partnership on the stage.
The failings of Eagling’s production have been widely discussed already. It’s only fair to praise the cast for what they do with the material they are given. A prime example of this is Laurretta Summerscales and her interpretation of the Mirliton dance. Alison McWhinney has enjoyed many more opportunities to shine since winning the company’s Emerging Dancer competition in 2014 and rightly so. Her elegance and easy, fluid musicality is a joy as a lead snowflake and in taking charge in the Waltz of the Flowers.
The role of the mice here is particularly elongated. They never seem to truly depart although James Streeter does his best as the Mouse King to add a little intrigue to the end of act one before Clara and the Nutcracker are carried off in a hot air balloon by Fabian Reimar’s Drosselmeyer. I can never help but think of the BBC Four documentary on ENB from a few years ago Agony and Ecstasy: A Year with English National Ballet which featured Eagling’s last minute dash to complete the production the night before it opened and his rage over the lack of visible hot air balloon to a powerless young stage manager. (Did anyone actually care?)
Although this version of Nutcracker sits comfortably with the company now, I can’t help but feel they have outgrown it with their current crop of talent they are perfectly well equipped to deliver a Nutcracker as rich as their competitors.