Liverpool Empire: The Nutcracker

Posted On: 30/11/2016

By: Zoe Yak

Ahhh ballet. Just the mere mention of the historical form of dance can bring a whole host of childhood memories come rushing back to my mind. I’m not talking about my experiences as a kid in a tutu and pumps - floating gracefully across a stage and wowing audiences with my pivoting and what not. Nope. I’m talking about a bitter feud I’ve now created with my mother about the fact she sent me to football lessons rather than ballet as a child. Now, a grown adult, I have ‘shapely’ (that’s polite talk for chubby) sturdy calves from the years spent booting balls around rather than lean limbs and a dancer’s body. I’m neglecting to mention the fact I begged to join a football team, lived in trackies and trainers as a tomboy growing up and would have absolutely hated to be decked out in a pink tutu and taught to dance but that’s by the by. How dare my mother not conform to society’s pressure for girls to fill certain gender expectations and instead let her daughter participate in an extracurricular activity she actually wanted to do and enjoyed? God, what an absolute cow.

So naturally, to celebrate my mum’s birthday, I decided to treat her to an evening of the English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker at The Empire. A petty and ironic move - it felt right. Going to the ballet has been on my bucket list for quite a while so it was a gift that also hugely benefitted me too and aren’t they just the best kind of presents to give?

On my quest to become unbearably middle class and pretentious, I’ve really started to enjoy classical music almost daily. Whether it’s a playlist I’ve created to have on while I’m working (it helps you focus but doesn’t distract you from your train of thought #LifeHack) or I’m blasting out Mozart and his mates while I’m meditating*, I’ve become quite the regular listener of Classic FM. Safe to say, I was pretty psyched about the prospect of seeing a live orchestra while getting my first experience of a bit of high brow culture.

*Okay, so my attempts to meditate usually result in me lighting a candle then having a kip while Spotify plays but you know what, I’m trying and isn’t that all anyone can ask of me?

My mum was pretty excited too. We’ve clarified that I never participated as a kid but I also fell asleep watching Black Swan the other year but she’d at least managed that. She was practically a seasoned veteran compared to me when it came to the ballet. In short, we were both very keen to watch some prancing about in tights,

You see where this is going, don’t you? You’ve spotted the plot twist off a mile haven’t you? If you haven’t then here we go: the ballet is naff. Look, I’m just not having it that anyone does anything but endure performances. I believe we’re all crippled by the fear of seeming uncultured and common so we all pretend to enjoy this high art. I don’t even think Charlotte and Trey from SATC enjoyed their little date nights watching Swan Lake yano and they’re the ultimate in basic pretentiousness. Worry no more, I’m here to say it - the ballet is boring and it doesn’t make you thick or uncultured for saying so.

Ballet 2

Let’s get the first major issue addressed - I didn’t have a clue what was going on storyline wise. I was a novice to the tale of The Nutcracker -  I’ve never read the famous story growing up (was too busy playing football, wasn’t i mum?) and I haven’t even so much as caught Barbie’s straight to DVD film interpretation of it during my 27 years on this earth. I’d opted to not google the plotline prior to the performance so not to spoil it for myself but by the end of the first act I was flicking through the programme to try get the gist of just what the hell was happening. “So hang on, that toy comes to life yeah? What’s with all the mice dancing around? What’s that all about?” I muttered to myself while pouring more wine down my neck to help me cope with the second act.

The wine did help a little when I went back in but I couldn’t help looking enviously at the crying baby whose dad had to take out of the stalls and sit in the bar with for the rest of the performance. “Why didn’t I bring a baby with me and have the perfect Get Out of The Boring Ballet Free card? Can I get away with crying and having a tantrum and hope my mother will carry me out to the blissful safe haven that is The Empire’s bar? Perhaps I could fake an asthma attack? No Zoe, you don’t even have an inhaler on you and it will be incredibly awkward when an ambulance is called and you have to explain yourself” - an insight to my internal monologue throughout the rest of the show.

I’ll level with you - maybe it’s just me being a miserable cow. Maybe the ballet is boss and it’s just wasted on this moody little emo. Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves (but we all know my theory on that) so it could just be that I caught the ballet on a bad day? I don’t know. I do know this though, I don’t want to be so utterly negative and bleak so I’m going to hit you with some positives from the evening. Firstly, The Empire - always good for a night out, whatever the show (even the ballet). I’ve found myself at the theatre a few times this year and always have a wonderful time, even at a production involving David Hasselhoff pretending to take MDMA on stage. It’s not just because it’s right next door to a Wetherspoons that serves bottles of prosecco for a tenner - it’s a gorgeous venue with friendly staff and if I can even find myself enjoying myself at the ballet there, it’s certainly a winner to be honest.

Secondly, the costumes. Remember getting all love heart emoji at Kate Winslet’s wardrobe in Titanic? Well The Nutcracker is like an on stage production of quaint ball gowns and basically stuff you’d love to own but never have anywhere to wear them too as it’s 2016 and no one throws elaborate balls these days. Shame.

Finally, the dancing is impressive. Another Titanic reference for you - you know when Rose gets on her toes after having a few beers and a ciggie at the party with the paupers? Well the ballet is basically two hours of that kind of thing blowing your mind. You’ll want to get home and try train your fella to pick you up and spin you around like they do on stage but be cruelly reminded that he won’t even give you a piggy back when your feet hurt on a night out so you’re hardly going to be appearing together in Swan Lake any time soon.

In conclusion, The Empire is boss, ballet is boring but fair play to the dancers, they’re crazy talented. If one good thing came from the evening it’s that I’m no longer bitter that my mum never sent me to the ballet as a kid - if it’s half as boring to master as it is watch, I made the right call knocking a footy around instead.

If you're not a miserable cow like me, perhaps you'd appreciate it more and can get tickets here


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