Letter: Danse macabre

Sir: I accompanied a group of children to the schools' matinee of The Nutcracker by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden on 16 December. This performance was designed to attract a new, young audience. It was more likely to put children off.

Delayed at the beginning, interrupted by a mysterious 10-minute pause during Act I, and with an interval of almost an hour, the performance limped from one disaster to another.

There were no fewer than 12 cast changes and it seemed to me that the thing was so under-rehearsed that many of the dancers didn't know what they were doing half the time. Highlights included the unseemly pile-up at the end of the Russian dance.

Technical flaws were frequent. Columbine was trapped inside a giant plastic cauliflower which had to be wheeled off so that she could escape in order to do her dance. Harlequin fared better, but still had to be helped out of his exploding pork pie. The performance was continually interrupted by loud offstage clanking and stage hands were seen on occasions. So much for newly installed state-of-the-art theatre technology.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon came when unseen hands, after much tugging, managed to release a billowing curtain that had become snagged on the scenery. The poor dancer performing in front of this fiasco must have wondered what on earth she'd done to receive such applause midway through her solo.

On a positive note, the new Floral hall provides a spacious and comfortable environment for visitors to the refurbished Opera House. However, with performances as dire as the one we saw, I can't think of any reason why people will bother to visit the new Covent Garden except to marvel at this spectacular public space.

DAVID CULPAN

London SE12

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