Reviewed by Kathryn Harrison
Last night I had the pleasure of taking my seven-year-old daughter to watch the English National Ballet production of Nutcracker at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre. This ballet composed by Tchaikovsky, was first performed in December 1892. Now, so many years later it is still enjoyed by families worldwide as part of the Christmas season.
The story will be familiar to most people, Clara and Freddie, two young children are excitedly getting ready for a Christmas Eve party. Dr Drosselmeyer, a family friend arrives at the party with his nephew. Excitement builds throughout the party as more guests appear and presents begin to gather under the Christmas tree. Dr Drosselmeyer presents Clara with a Christmas gift of a Nutcracker Doll which she loves. Clara’s brother Freddie wants to look at the doll and as the children fight over it the doll breaks, much to the children’s dismay. However, as if by magic, Dr Drosselmeyer is able to put the doll back together again. Soon the party is over, all the guests leave and the children go to bed. During the night Clara has a dream about her beloved Nutcracker being attacked by the evil Mouse King.
This was the first professional ballet I or my daughter had seen, we knew the story but had no idea what to expect, we were taken aback by the beauty of the production. The sets were grand and so detailed, every part of the stage had something to look at. Then the dancer’s came on stage, oh my word! Their costumes were phenomenal, so intricate and beautiful, they looked absolutely amazing. When they began to dance, neither of us could believe our eyes, they were spinning, twirling and leaping all over the stage. My daughter audibly gasped when watching them, as I’ve already said we haven’t seen a professional ballet before so can’t comment on the technical aspects of the dance but to an amateur eye they were flawless and completely mesmerising to watch. The orchestra, led by conductor Gavin Sutherland, played beautifully, the music was familiar despite us having never seen the ballet before however it’s not surprising music composed 127 years ago has entered the collective consciousness. The dancer’s and the music seemed to be one entity moving in unison. Young Clara and Freddie were played by Sophie Carter and Oscar Williams, they were both completely adorable as were all the child dancers. It was amazing to see such talent in such young people. When Shiori Kase was on stage as Clara during the dream sequences, my daughter couldn’t take her eyes off her. She sat on the edge of her seat watching every move.
This was a delightful performance to watch with sumptuous sets, graceful dancing, captivating costumes and enchanting music it was a real treat for the eyes and ears and a great start to the festive season. It was the first ballet we have watched but it certainly won’t be the last, although future performances will have to go a long way to match this one!
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
English National Ballet Nutcracker is at the Liverpool Empire from 27-30 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/liverpool or call the box office on 0844 8713017.
Liverpool Empire, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017