Where is the glitter and magic, our annual Christmas treat, without the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Snow Queen? With theatre doors closed during these sad times, Scottish Ballet have come up with this brilliant feature film,
Scottish Ballet and their orchestra are to be congratulated.
Starting with the small boy (a charming Leo Tetteh) creeping into the empty theatre, evading the torch beam of the security guard, a terrific tension is created. At once the viewer is hooked as he climbs onto the stage and wanders back-stage. Dancers climb out of wicker baskets or through costume rails. Leo is befriended by a young woman, Lexi performed cheerily by Alice Kawalek and hey presto, the dances begin.
The film works best when everything is seen through the Leo’s wide eyes or when he is involved in the action: flexing his own muscles imitating the Strong Man, chased by a snarling silver wolf or spiky Jack Frost, terrified by the Snow Queen (the scarily magnificent Constance Devernay) or even Leo showing off his own skills spinning a football. Of course, we must have the set pieces of the Sugar Plum Fairy (the exquisite Sophie Martin) and Waltz of the Flowers but concentration might flag for the younger viewers during the overlong Roma sequence.
When Jess and Morgs are given full reign this is a superb cinematic experience, working as a dramatic whole, using all the tricks of film-makers: swirling camera, transformation of characters before our eyes into snow wolf or Jack Frost, a roving camera behind the main action, showing the lurking Snow Queen waiting to strike, or with the sparkle of a Christmas tree bauble whirling us to a party where the Nutcracker Prince leaps and spins (superbly danced by Jerome Anthony Barnes). The dancers play to the camera, thrusting a top-hat into the frame or giving a wink, (the dramatic Bruno Micchiardi as Ring-Master) for, of course, the advantage of film is that we get a close-up of the dancers’ expressions, can admire the details of the golden braids on uniforms or silver-embroidered tutus, the jewels of the tiaras, or shiver at the blue lips of the Snow Queen. Everyone has front row seats. And what better way to introduce a child to ballet? Perhaps more children, in particular boys, like the one in this film will have their imaginations fired and desire to become a ballet dancer?
To produce this film in full compliance with covid restrictions must have been a massive undertaking, let alone the dancers having to learn a new way of working for film. Scottish Ballet and their orchestra are to be congratulated. The beauty is that this film can be seen by a wider audience than those of us living in Scotland. It’s FREE but I urge you, in these difficult times for all theatre people, to consider a donation.