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The Nutcracker (Rickmansworth)

A new version of the Nutcracker at the Rickmansworth Watersmeet by a young company with high standards

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Clare and her gift of a nutcracker
© Chaz Barnes

It has some of Tchaikovsky's most popular music, but The Nutcracker is not the easiest ballet to stage. Act One is mainly storytelling while Act Two can appear simply as a sequence of divertissements.

True to the company's name, Ballet Theatre UK's artistic director and choreographer Christopher Moore has devised a scenario which makes sense to even the younger members of the audience.

The father of Clara (Helena Casado Cortes) owns a chocolate business (eat your heart out, Willy Wonka!) and lives in considerable late 19th century style.

As well as his (adult) guests for the Christmas Eve party, we meet his staff and in particular young Molly (Kazuka Oike), who is Clara's friend as well as maid. (Moore dispenses with Drosselmeyer, as well as Clara's brother and the other children).

One guest gives Clara a life-sized doll (Julia Davies), and her antics – part Coppélia, part Olympia from Les contes d'Hoffmann – have a slightly sinister air.

Of course, the present Clara really adores is that of the nutcracker, which comes to life as a handsome soldier (David Brewer) who is attacked by some nasty-looking rats (sporting excellent animal masks).

Moore's choreography has some engaging dances for the staff as well as elegant ones for the guests and lyrical solos for Clara. Casado Cortes pas-de-deux with Brewer contains some neat turns and graceful lifts.

Then we're in the Kingdom of the Sweets for Act Two, which has the type of display choreography familiar from Ivanov and Petipa, as well as featuring some more of Daniel Hope's witty costumes and headdresses.

Sweets to be sampled include humbugs (dashing in black and silver), sea-green peppermints, Turkish delights (for the Arabian dance) and candy-floss ( complete with stiffly-whipped headgear).

Natalie Cawte and Luca Varone produce the requisite fireworks as the sugar-plum fairy and her cavalier and deserve their applause. This may be a young company but it has high standards.