REVIEW: The Nutcracker, English National Ballet, The Mayflower, Southampton, November 22-25.

The sheer beauty of the production, the dazzling artistry of the performers and the glorious music of Tchaikovsky make this the perfect start to the festive season.

ENB wave the magic wand of their own brilliance for a delightful trip back in time to an enchanted Christmas Eve when something truly magical happens, certainly on stage at the Mayflower.

Even for the ballet novice (and this was my first time), it’s impossible not to be drawn into Clara’s world for a Christmas she’ll never forget, whether it be dream or reality.

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The sumptuous elegance of the Edwardian drawing room party is captured magnificently, costume and set providing the perfect platform to the dancers to weave their spell.

And then in comes the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer with a gift that proves Clara’s passport to another world, one in which soldiers and mice do battle and the world comes to present its gifts.

The very model of grace and control, Czech prima ballerina Daria Klimentová is entrancing as the little girl for whom sleep is far more exciting than wakefulness could ever be in a fast-moving production which is a constant visual feast.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s the gorgeousness of the snow flake waltz which remains the night’s abiding memory.

Phil Hewitt