CriticalDance Forum

ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Nutcracker provides festive fizz
The design is new but the Christmas spirit is intact
By Patrick Jackson for BBC News Online

Half ballet, half pantomime, all fun, English National Ballet's new Nutcracker breathes sweet new life into an old Christmas fairy-tale.

The cartoonist Gerald Scarfe has confectioned costumes and sets as charming and memorable as Tchaikovsky's music.

It is a production with all the spring of a jack-in-a-box, bringing a classic Russian work bang up to date with a modern British Christmas setting.

Maybe it could only take a ballet company and a cartoonist from England, land of the panto, to put some modern-day fizz back into Tchaikovsky?

The surreal mix which emerges is worthy of Alice in Wonderland.

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Author:  Joanne [ Sun Dec 08, 2002 4:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Review in The Observer.

Action man paratroopers swing into battle in English National Ballet's new Nutcracker, which has reached London after a regional tour. The paras prove no match for Uzi-toting mice in gas masks, led by a king who fights with a sword. Clara comes to the rescue of her duelling Nutcracker doll, who loses his ugly head. She kisses him back to life, transformed into a prince in white tights and a combat jerkin.


Author:  PressUK [ Wed Dec 18, 2002 4:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Grandpa does a twirl in his Zimmer frame. And Badger dances!
By Jenny Gilbert for The Independent

English National Ballet might not have known what they were letting themselves in for when they gave caricaturist Gerald Scarfe carte blanche to design their new Nutcracker, but they were right about one thing: it isn't saccharine and it isn't dull.

Given that the company – virtually single-handed – has made an institution of The Nutcracker in this country, mounting the ballet every Christmas for more than half a century and changing its look every six years or so, it feels some obligation to shake things up. Yet it also has its bedrock audience of ballet purists to consider. The peculiar, sometimes uneasy, achievement of Nutcracker's latest incarnation – design and "concept" by Scarfe, choreography by 29-year-old Christopher Hampson – is that it really does do both.

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<small>[ 12-18-2002, 05:01: Message edited by: PressUK ]</small>

Author:  Joanne [ Thu Dec 19, 2002 3:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Another review from The Independent.

After two important new productions on tour this past autumn, English National Ballet is now giving its regular Christmas and New Year London season. We reviewed the premieres when they happened; now is the chance to see how the dancers are settling into their new repertoire. And the answer is, pretty well, thank you. This is a company on the way up.


Author:  OdileGB [ Thu Dec 19, 2002 5:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

English National Ballet
The Coliseum
Tuesday 03/12/02
The Nutcracker

As usual in December Nutcracker season is upon us and ENB has returned to the London Coliseum for their annual month long residence, this time with their brand new production of the Tschaikovsky classic with designs by Gerald Scarfe and choreography
by Christopher Hampson. Opening night saw a stellar cast with Irek Mukhamedov as
Drosselmeyer, Erina Takahashi as Clara and Agnes Oakes and Thomas Edur as the
Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince.
Drosselymeyer is the storyteller and takes us into the ballet by opening a giant book,
that later turns into the walls of his god daughter Clara’s home where a Christmas
party takes place. Scarfe’s costumes for the party guests are all over the top comic book
style, very colourful and some guests are even sporting pink or blue hair. Grandpa even
has a very curvy girlfriend named Miss V. Aggra. Although Clara is sporting a fire engine red bob it is on occasion quite difficult to spot her in the midst of this swirl of
colour. The production comes up with a whole variety of fresh ideas that are fun to
watch. When entertaining the party guests with magic, Drosselmeyer hypnotises the
maid and gets her to literally let her hair down in a sexy dance with him. Clara, in a
simple white pyjama, gets to fence with the evil Mouse King, defeating him of course.
The Snow Flakes and Jack Frosts (!) emerge from a giant freezer and at the end of Act 1
Clara is whisked away by her Nutcracker prince on a giant folded paper bird.

In Act 2 the swirl of colour continues. Clara’s place for viewing the celebrations that
are put on in her honour with Drosselmeyer is, you guessed it, a giant Chocolate Box.
The costumes of the 3 matadors in the Spanish dance are so bright that they are almost
blinding. The Arabian dance is stunning show piece and saw Begona Cao in high heels,
posing seductively, surrounded by ‘dancing’ feathers. The Chinese dancers arrive by
bike with take-out for Clara and dance with ribbons. But on Tuesday night it was
Yat-Sen Chang, delivering impressive pyrotechnics as the Russian Bear who drew
the most enthusiastic response from the audience. The dance of the Mirlitons shows
off the spiral lines on their costumes to great effect and Clara and Drosselmeyer lead
the dance of the Flowers before the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince take over the
stage in the Grand Pas de Deux. Agnes Oakes and Thomas Edur of course never
set a foot wrong and charmed the entire audience. In the end Clara and her Prince
fly off again on the giant paper bird and it is left to Drosselmeyer to finish the tale by
closing the story book.

Gerald Scarfe and Christopher Hampson have undoubtedly succeeded in producing
a great and very entertaining show. Unfortunately a lot of the choreography is not
particularly impressive, with the exception of the dance of the Mirlitons that strikes
just the right balance between playing with the lines of the costumes and taking
advantage of the skills of the dancers and the Grand Pas de Deux that is more or
less preserved in its traditional form. Nevertheless as a first introduction to ballet children from 5 to 105 could do a lot worse than that. This new Nutcracker is a lot of fun and in my opinion a vast improvement over Deane’s production ENB presented last year. This year’s ENB season at the Coliseum will end on 04/01/03 so there is still time for the undecided to make up their minds. I recommend do not hesitate. Go and see it.

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Sun Jan 05, 2003 8:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

I'm certainly very glad that I went to see it and I did find it interesting, well staged and very well danced. But it does not seem to me that this production will be of enduring interest. Scarfe's designs are so highy stylised that I really do think that they get in the way of the choreography and I really dont't think that a production should be so design-led. Diaghilev, I believe, tried to integrate the design, music and choreography so that all three had equal billing. That really was not the case here.

Various of the critics have cited small people - ie children - as one good point about the ballet: that the bright colours and the strong and obvious caricatures appeal to a very young audience. Unfortunately, the five and six-year olds who were my companions for the evening expected something more traditional. Of course, what is traditional to a five year old is hard to plot. But since it was their first big night out at the ballet, I think they expected something more soft and classical. They were 'full of' the Sugar Plum Fairy when they came out. They did not like what Clara was wearing - the psychedelic colours did not go down well.

This was a shame. The girls had listened to the music and had the story read to them non-stop in the weeks leading up to the performance. It was charming that they disagreed amongst themselves as to the true version of the story having read different publications. I'm not sure that in their minds what they saw corresponded to what they had read about and that was a source of disappointment to them. There is no grandfather with a zimmer frame who does somersaults in the original, so they didn't understand why it was there on stage.

I believe you can take a fantasy and in subtle ways take that fantasy to new places, but the enduring success of The Nutcracker and of all those hackneyed and tawdry pantomimes that appear year in and year out, is that the stories are familiar, there's always a new audience of five year olds, and the fantasy conforms to a five year old's view of glamour.

Of course, five year-olds are not the only audience. But I believe you tamper with their fantasies at your peril. If the critics felt that children would have enjoyed it, they should have come along with my little party. These little girls had much more sartorial elegance in their party frocks than the Clara they had dressed up for.

<small>[ 05 January 2003, 09:54 AM: Message edited by: Emma Pegler ]</small>

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Sun Sep 28, 2003 8:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Just to let you know, The Nutcracker of the ENB opens at the Liverpool Empire Theatre on 18 November,and at the Carling Apollo, Hammersmith, London on 24 December.

Just prior to curtain-up at each matinee performance, Angelina Ballerina will appear on stage to introduce the story, draw attention to the ballet highlights etc.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Dec 14, 2003 1:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

On the verge
By Carl Wilkinson for The Observer

Who: Begoña Cao
What: Ballet dancer
They say: 'Begoña Cao is quite edibly attractive' John Percival, The Independent
We say: A Darcey Bussell in the making

'It's performing that I love. Getting up on stage is fantastic,' says Begoña Cao, the 24-year-old dancer with the English National Ballet who is about to reprise her role as the Sugar Plum Fairy in perennial Christmas favourite The Nutcracker. 'That feeling when you've done a good show, and the audience has enjoyed it, is great. It's about it being live, about the moment you are on stage.'

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Dec 26, 2003 2:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

A cartoon for all seasons
By Allen Robertson for The Times

NO OTHER ballet has been so mucked-about with as The Nutcracker. That’s because companies all over the world are dependent on new productions of this seasonal cash-cow to boost their coffers during the other 11 months of the year. It can be said with some degree of certainty that if London Festival (now English National) Ballet had not staged a Nutcracker — any Nutcracker — every Christmas for the past 53 years, the company would not still be in existence.
The current production, ENB’s seventh, was unveiled last year. It features choreography by Christopher Hampson, but its major selling point is its designs by the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jan 09, 2004 1:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

The Nutcracker
Carling Apollo, Hammersmith, London
By John Percival for The Stage

English National Ballet's Nutcracker – like Birmingham's Beauty and the Beast – is far more enjoyable than you could guess from carping reviews in the national papers. Luckily, a really diverse audience of varied ages, ethnicity and social backgrounds arrived to relish it at Hammersmith – quite a few, I would guess, on their first theatre visit.

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<small>[ 09 January 2004, 02:38 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Sun Jan 11, 2004 4:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Dance: A hard nut to crack
Two tasty takes on one old favourite. And thankfully, these are opposites that attract. By Clifford Bishop
The Times

Perhaps it is the hovering spirit of the author and fantasist ETA Hoffmann, but there is something about The Nutcracker that stubbornly resists all attempts at good taste and moderation. Even the most conservative productions have their moments of blissful insanity, and in the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s version at the Festival Hall, these tend to concentrate around the mice: an S&M legion of PVC-armoured, pointy-masked gimps that crawl toward young Masha (the owner of the Nutcracker) as if they would rather have a mistress than a Mouse King. But when their ruler arrives, he combines both functions in one chiffon-caped, feather-crowned entity, swishing his sword, essaying Tiller Girl kicks at his enemies and reeling around like Larry Grayson with the vapours

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Dec 19, 2004 2:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

Scarfe suits Clara well
English National Ballet are looking good in their edgy, vibrant Nutcracker. By David Dougill for The Sunday Times.

The key idea in the English National Ballet’s latest (2002) production of The Nutcracker, which returns to the London Coliseum this week, is that everything in the story comes out of a picture book. This is the concept of the ballet’s designer, the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.

So to start, the controlling genius, Drosselmeyer the magician, opens a stage-high book and conjures his characters from its pages. The party room’s walls are leaves from the story’s text; the bird that carries Clara and her nutcracker Prince to the Kingdom of Sweets is made of folded paper. At the end, Drosselmeyer sends everybody packing back into his book.

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Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Dec 21, 2004 9:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

ENB puts its Scarfe on

the Independent

Scarfe's ferocious satire has appeared for years in the pages of The Sunday Times and The New Yorker. The prolific caricaturist has also created a new animation piece for Cam-eron Mackintosh's Miss Saigon. He also designed Pink Floyd's film The Wall, ...

<small>[ 21 December 2004, 10:10 AM: Message edited by: kurinuku ]</small>

Author:  kurinuku [ Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

The Nutcracker/Cinderella Coliseum/Covent Garden London

the Financial Times

And then, returning to today's actualities, we are faced with Nutcrackers hung about like a Christmas tree with idiot ideas, vulgarity, wholly inadequate choreography and saccharine sentiment. Music betrayed, a charming story abused, an original dance-text (by Lev Ivanov, made for the ballet's premiere in 1892) ignored.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Dec 23, 2004 12:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: ENB Nutcracker (Hampson) 2002/3, 2003/4, 2004/5

The Nutcracker
By Debra Craine for The Times

ENGLISH National Ballet must be so relieved to find itself back at the Coliseum for Christmas. During the theatre’s closure last year, ENB had to take its Nutcracker west to the Hammersmith Apollo, one of the worst venues for dance in London.

The resulting £700,000 drop in box-office takings left a large hole in the company’s finances and necessitated the cancellation of its much-heralded autumn offering, Michael Corder’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

All that was put behind them as the dancers stepped on to the Coliseum stage for the opening of The Nutcracker and looked at the stunning transformation of their redeveloped London home.

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