I went to see “The Nutcracker” at Eden Court Theatre on Saturday, as part of a big family celebration. I’d never been to the ballet, and no nothing about such things, so was intrigued as to what I would find.
The story of the Nutcracker, in (excuse the pun) a nutshell, is a strange one. A man with mad scientist hair, child molester glasses and more than a passing resemblance to Harry Potter, visits a house – seemingly people he knows – at what appears to be Christmas time. The lady of the house seems to be half-woman, half-rat. The mad scientist brings a gift of a toy soldier for the young girl in the family, in whom I got the impression he was taking a rather disconcerting interest.
Over the course of the evening, the soldier, as well as a doll belonging to the girl, comes to life (and increases to the size of a human) and dances about. Various other people dance about, too. Weird Terry Gilliam-style images appear in the window. There is a terrifyingly ugly baby. The mad scientist appears to compete with the toy soldier (when in human form) for the girl’s attention.
The girl goes to sleep on the floor, next to what seem to be her only possessions – a wendy house, the doll, the soldier, and a book.
In the middle of the night, a humongous plant pot appears in the middle of the room. From within emerge two armies, one of Weimar-era German soldiers, and another composed of strange half-orc, half-rat looking things. In kilts. They fight. The toy soldier – despite chickening out initially – is killed. But then he seems to get better, which is quite miraculous.
Though probably not as miraculous as regularly transforming – to nobody’s alarm – from a foot-tall wooden toy to a full-size human with classical dance training.
And that’s the first Act, more or less. Some other stuff happened, but I struggled to keep up.
The second Act bears no resemblance to the first, consisting entirely of various dances unrelated to the plot. Good dances, mind. Excellent, in fact. The costumes, music, set and artists’ performances were top-notch, although much of the music did seem to have been taken from one or two films (including one piece from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and various adverts.
I was informed in the middle of one dance that it was the dance of the sugar plum fairy. The sole dancer involved looked nothing like sugar or a plum, though I kind of saw the fairy element.
Everything ended to rapturous applause, despite the fact that a number of issues remained unresolved: why the Harry Potter child molester type was allowed to perpetuate his unhealthy interest in the young girl, why her mum was half-rat, why there was a scary baby with a nightmarishly over-sized head in the house, why nobody was capable of speaking or even walking normally, and how and why the toy soldier anthropomorphised as if it was the most normal thing to do.
And while all the dancing in the second bit was very impressive, I can’t help wondering: why don’t they just employ taller ballerinas?
I think I’ll stick to the cinema in the future.