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Design gallery: Three Nutcrackers | reviews, news & interviews

Design gallery: Three Nutcrackers

Design gallery: Three Nutcrackers

Three ways to crack a balletic Nut in Birmingham, Scotland and London

John Macfarlane's frontcloth for Birmingham Royal Ballet's lush, painterly production of The Nutcracker

Is the look to be Beckmann, Bergman or Nicky Haslam? To accompany the interviews with Nutcracker designers elsewhere, here are three very different design portfolios tackling the eternal magic of this favourite ballet with unexpected reference points. Sketches by John F Macfarlane for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Antony McDonald for Scottish Ballet and Gerald Scarfe for English National Ballet are seen with production stills alongside.

Read interviews with the three designers elsewhere on theartsdesk, where they explain their thinking and working methods.


John Macfarlane for Birmingham Royal Ballet


All these big ballets have pivot points in the score, when you should really travel. You can’t shortchange them with the staging

Interview here. Choreography and production Peter Wright with Vincent Redmon, after Ivanov

Photo credits Roy Smiljanic and Bill Cooper; dancers Natasha Oughtred (Sugar Plum Fairy), Dominic Antonucci (Drosselmeyer), company of Birmingham Royal Ballet; designs for Clara's friend, Drosselmeyer, Mirliton, Arabian Dance, Sugar Plum Fairy



Antony McDonald for Scottish Ballet


Interview here. Choreography and production by Ashley Page

What about Harry Potter? Weirdly I think today there is an undercurrent that life isn’t always only what we see

Photo credits Bill Cooper; dancers Jarkko Lehmus (Drosselmeyer), Glauco di Lieto (Nutcracker); Tatiana Loginova (Marie), company of Scottish Ballet; designs for Mouserink, Bad Snowflakes, Flowers (costume drawings by Michelle May)



Gerald Scarfe for English National Ballet

Interview here. Concept and design by Gerald Scarfe, choreography by Christopher Hampson.

There was initially a sort of gasp because of what I’d done to darling Tchaikovsky. It was as if I’d raped The Nutcracker

Photo credits English National Ballet; dancers of English National Ballet; designs for Drosselmeyer, Clara, Grandpa, Running Parcels


  • Birmingham Royal Ballet's Nutcracker is at the Birmingham Hippodrome 27 November-13 December. Book online here. Check out Birmingham Royal Ballet's season listings
  • Scottish Ballet's Nutcracker is at Glasgow's Theatre Royal 12-31 December; Edinburgh, Festival Theatre, 6-9 January 2010; Inverness, Eden Court 20-23 January; Aberdeen, His Majesty's Theatre 27-30 January; Newcastle, Theatre Royal 3–6 February. Booking details here
  • English National Ballet's Nutcracker is at the London Coliseum 16 December-3 January. Book online here

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