Sunday, 26 December 2021

The Nutcracker and The Mouse King

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Author Hans Gerritsen  (c) 2021 Dutch National Ballet (all rights reserved 


The Music Theatre The Nutcracker and the Mouse King 18 Dec 2021 and 24 Dev 2021 13:00

Between 1991 and 2003 Wayne Eagling was the Artistic Director of the Dutch National Ballet. In that role, he collaborated with Toer van Schayk to create The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.   On 18 and  24 Dec 2021 the work was live-streamed over the internet to audiences around the world. I watched both performances.

This ballet includes the Mouse King in the title for a reason. In other productions, the role of the mouse king is quite limited.  He leads his mice into battle against the toy soldiers and begins to gain the upper hand until Clara clobbers him.  In Eagling's version, he appears first at the Stahlbaums' party, later as a nightmare as Clara tries to sleep, next as the leader of the mice and finally in a duel with the prince.  The battle between mice and soldiers seems to symbolize a struggle between chaos and order which echoes in the boys' mithering their sisters or the Arabs dragging their captives.

Eagling's collaboration with van Schayk has led to all sorts of fantastic creations.   A giant pink-eyed monster rodent, an autonomous walking robot of a nutcracker and the fantastic machine with its circular centre-piece that at one point turns itself into a massive feline compete with a moving paw in the final confrontation with the mouse king and a ruined temple for the mirliton scene.   So much more compelling than a kingdom of the sweets with the Spanish, Arabs and Chinese dances representing chocolate, coffee and tea.

The two shows had different casts and each is to be congratulated.  Clara was danced by Maia Makhateli on 18 Dec and Riho Sakamoto on 24. Sakamoto has recently been promoted to principal which pleases me considerably as I have been following her progress ever since she joined the Junior Company in 2014 (see Riho Sakamoto promoted to principal).  Makhateli was magnificent as she always is and was partnered gallantly by Jakob Feyferlik,   Also impressive were Edo Wijnen who danced the nutcracker, Vito  Mazzeo who was Drosselmeyer and James Stout who was the mouse king.   Sadly I do not yet have a cast list for the Christmas eve matinee and I can't be sure who performed the leading roles other than Sakamoto.

Live screening is better than nothing but it is not the same as attending the theatre.   Theatre - particularly ballet - is two-way communication.  A good audience lifts the artists to new heights.   I am sure the dancers were aware that viewers like me around the world were cheering ourselves hoarse and clapping till our palms were sore but that's not the same as hearing us.  The Netherlands like the UK has had to cope with the "o" strain at the worse possible time and the season may have to be curtailed for public health reasons.  But one day the pandemic will be over in both countries.  When it is, my priority will be to watch this ballet live.