The Nutcracker is to be streamed live, from the Royal Opera House, to our cinemas. It’s obviously the Christmas ballet: what in your own words is at the heart of its appeal? The Royal Ballet’s production has got everything you could possibly need to feel festive. It takes you back to childhood and provides a beautiful family connection between generations. It’s quite a responsibility to lead the storytelling, playing Drosselmeyer: for a couple of hours I really feel that I’m holding people’s Christmas in my hands.
What’s different or unusual – special – about this production? It doesn’t get any better. It just doesn’t! Tchaikovsky created the most incredible score, and it’s so wonderfully familiar. (First timers are often surprised to find they recognise far more than they knew.) Sir Peter Wright has delivered what I feel is the ultimate and classic production: stunning sets and costume designs; the magical clarity of the storytelling; and, of course, the most fabulous choreography danced by the world’s finest company. Everyone involved has so much pride in it, from the children in the party scene right through to the Sugar Plum Fairy: I think the audience can really feel that and they know it’s special too.
Your character is the magician and toymaker who brings the nutcracker, and the dancing dolls, into the family Christmas. What do you enjoy most about playing him? (How deeply do you think about character in ballet? How close is your job to acting?) Oh, this is an acting role, no doubt. Of course, I’m a still a dancer at heart and I make my performance as physical and musical as I can. By the end, I feel like I’ve danced right through it; I’m totally exhausted. But Sir Peter has put Drosselmeyer at the heart of the storytelling: the whole magical truth rests on his shoulders. It’s rare for an acting role to have such a presence in a ballet and that brings enormous pleasure, as well as pressure, to playing him.
What’s most wonderful, to you, about Tchaikovsky’s score? There’s so much to love, it would take all night to tell you. But if I must pick just one part, it has to be the transformation scene, when the family home grows in size for the battle and then is transformed into a fabulous winter wonderland. As a magician, Drosselmeyer is at the heart of this, and makes it all happen. The music allows me to forget all the technical aspects – the ropes and hydraulics – and the audience forgets too. When I’m out there, it’s just me, Clara and Tchaikovsky.
So, what is The Nutcracker all about? Pure magic? The world keeps moving faster and faster and it feels like life just becomes more stressful and complicated. What The Nutcracker does brilliantly is transport everyone back to a simpler time: something we can all relate to and share. It’s about family, the gentle loss of innocence and the discovery of true love.
Photo by Tristram Kenton
The Nutcracker streams live to The Duke of Yorks and The Depot (in Lewes) on Monday 3rd at 7.15pm and Sunday 9th at 2pm