Now, one assumed, with the final production in the marathon Tchaikovsky Trilogy at the London Coliseum, all loose ends would be tied neatly together and Peter Schaufuss’ conception of connecting the three great Russian classics together be evident. Right? Wrong. At the end of Sleeping Beauty the previous night, the Dream Master brought Aurora and Florimund together on the now-famous couch. So, naturally, when the curtain lifted on The Nutcracker – the ‘Happy Dream’ and the last of the three ballets – to show two beings nestled together, one assumed that this was the next installment of this Danish-Russian soap opera, and that the sleeping male body was still Florimund. We never found out!
As soon as the Dream Master had roused the girl, the couch was wheeled off with her sleeping partner still curled up, never to be seen again. Now called Clara, yet looking like both the Swan Girl and Aurora, she raced off to watch her favourite TV programme about an astronaut, Nut ‘Sky’ Cracker. But like all strict parents, the TV got switched off to prepare for the expected guests. And a sombre lot they were too, all dressed in dark foreboding colours and dancing as at an end of year office party. No wonder the child was bored and lonely and the entrance of the angry Girl Blackboss (the spitting image of the Black Swan and Carabosse), who was ready to stir up trouble, made Clara cower on the floor, especially when the guests all laughed at her. The tension was broken by the arrival of her Uncle (Dream Master) with a life-sized Nut ‘Sky’ Cracker who performed jerky robotic steps for the guests. Later that night, when Clara took off his space helmet, she found a handsome young man who whisked her away via the Land of Snow. Here they rollerskated among the Snowflakes, whose cotton wool hats distributed trails of dust as they shook their heads. The young couple – Megumi Oka and Johan Christensen – performed a charmingly elegant and flowing duet watched over by the solicitous Dream Master. A peaceful scene – but a shock awaited the audience in the second act.
In the Land of Wishes, Clara meets her parents, who greet her with affection at last. They have become the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in her childish dream – but whoever designed the costumes for them? The vision they presented was like an end-of-the-pier panto. Dressed in a tutu, a wild and woolly pink wig, and little red pointe shoes, the Mother ( Zoe Ashe-Browne) was simply the wrong shape for one of the most treasured roles in fairy-tale ballets. But worse still was poor Irek’s costume, which should have been adapted to fit his now more portly figure. Given a bright green Muppet wig, white tights and a short, patchwork, high-waisted frock coat, it’s a wonder he even came on stage. But being the trooper that he is, he managed to smile, even if apologetically, and moved stylishly.
Then came the party that Clara had dreamed about – the earlier dull guests became animated, and while the choreography was repetitive, the dancers performed with gusto. Here we saw the Spanish, Chinese, Arabian and Russian female dancers from Swan Lake join their equivalent partners from Sleeping Beauty in lively dances. The atmosphere became positively jolly as glitter fell from the sky. Then suddenly the music cut out and the Dream Master appeared once more, seemingly contented with his work. He (Stefan Wise) was now joined by a woman in a chic long white gown (presumably Yoko Takahashi, glammed up from her black characters, though not named in the programme), and they danced gracefully together. (Could this have been Tchaikovsky himself with his Muse, one wondered?) The Trilogy was brought to a close as the man finally lay down on the couch, job done, while she stood at the head, white arms outstretched and arched as if she were a swan. All three dreams were over – though far from being comprehended by this writer.
London ColiseumSt. Martin's Lane
London Greater London United Kingdom WC2N 4ES
© Nut ‘Sky’ Cracker in Peter Schaufuss' Nutcracker