Monthly Archives: December 2012

The best Nutcracker?

I probably won’t bother with the Nutcracker this year but if I do it will definitely be the English National Ballet’s version. The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker is very traditional but ultimately rather fussy and cluttered. Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is silly and fun but only if you already know the story (and it is not on this year).

I first saw the ENB (then the London Festival Ballet) perform the Nutcracker back in the 60s and loved it. I’ve seen their current production, choreographed by Wayne Eagling, for the last two Christmases and it gets it perfectly. It gently breaks with tradition to add to the tale with fun touches, such as the skaters in the opening scene and the balloon flight, but keeps the magic. If you do want to see one Nutcracker this year, particularly if you are new to the ballet, do try the ENB first.

Welcome to the cheap seats

At 10 a.m. today, booking opens for Get Into London Theatre offering cheap seats to many productions in January. However, there are many other ways to get into the theatre cheaply. A great resource that pulls together offers from various other sites (e,g, is Showsavers Plus. You need to join but it is free. Time Out offers are also very useful for both the theatre and restaurants but you need to subscribe to their emails to see all of them. If you are flexible and willing to go up to the West End earlier in the day, the Leicester Square ticket booth is worth checking or you can get cheap day tickets for almost all shows, e.g. £20 for Billy Elliot. Find out when the box office opens and get there a little earlier. Finally, join communities that talk about your interests. For example, I got a fantastic bargain through Ballet News last year and  BalletcoForum members share news of offers and sell spare tickets to each other at cost price or less.

[Review] Robert le Diable

I had to see this as a curiosity and it is certainly curious! It is a melodramatic story with a melodramatic production by Laurent Pelly.

The staging and singing are superb and, even if the music is not memorable, the four and a half hours flew by. Not forgetting the ballet of the evil, ghostly nuns; more Hammer Horror than Giselle, it all added to the fun. There was plenty of laughter at points that Meyerbeer and his librettist Grice clearly did not intend but it all fitted with the Hammer Horror vibe. At the start of the first interval, the woman next to me said, “Great fun.” I couldn’t put it better. The picture is on the Royal Opera Facebook page.

[Review] Romeo and Juliet

Another LAMDA production at the Riverside Studios. It was not as good as Much Ado last week but better than a professional production of the play that I saw a few years ago. Nic Jackman was superb as Romes, Aisha Fabienne Ross and Alexandra Ross were very good as Juliet and her mother. Cameron Chapman was a very lewd and crude Mercutio, discovering doubles entendres in Shakespeare’s words that I hadn’t spotted before. There was lots of rumbustious sword play and dancing making a very entertaining two hours.

[Bits and Pieces] The ROH is cheap!

You can pay £200 for a seat at the Royal Opera House, but you can also pay as little as £4 to see world class productions. My favourite seats are in row L of the amphitheatre and cost £6 for a ballet triple bill but you need to be tall like me to see the whole stage and they book up quickly. For short people I’d recommend row A of the amphitheatre (extremely uncomfortable for me as there is no leg room). Ballet triple bills are the cheapest productions to see and are a great start if you aren’t that familiar with ballet. Online booking is easy: you can see what your seat looks like and the view you’ll get of the stage. There are no booking fees, postage fees or donations that you have to untick. I bought tickets for six productions this season for a total of £60, all posted to me. That’s a massive bargain when you consider what you get for your money. The triple bill reviewed below featured around 200 of the world’s greatest dancers, musicians and singers – all for £13.

[Review] MacMillan Triple Bill

Concerto, set to Shostakovish’s beautiful Piano Concerto, was athletic and geometric. My eagle eye’s view showed the geometry at its best. Las Hermanas was a tale of Spanish passion, bizarrely set to the very un-Spanish music of the Swiss composer Frank Martin. Boring music but fabulous dancing. Requiem was reverentially set to Fauré’s glorious Requiem – maybe a little too reverential but extremely beautiful. The only drawback of Royal Ballet triple bills is the long intervals – after two hours I’d only seen 50 minutes of ballet. I suppose giving the restaurant customers time to eat a course in an interval helps subsidise my cheap seat. I saw the performance on Thursday 29 November.

[Review] A Christmas Carol

Ballet Theatre UK is a fairly new company of young dancers with big ambitions who have created and choreographed this ballet themselves – it’s pretty good too (better than most of these small touring companies).

The pre-recorded music is mainly orchestrated versions of traditional carols with appropriate classics (e.g. Dance Macabre for Marley’s ghost). It’s touring, so please see it when it comes near you (see for details). I saw it at the Beck Theatre, Hayes last Saturday.