Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! ★★★★★ Sadler's Wells Theatre | Dec 7, 2021 - Jan 30, 2022


Matthew's Bourne's version of The Nutcracker first premiered in 1992 and has since become a staple of the Christmas scene. For those familiar with the original 1892 choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, Bourne offers a quite different version from that designed for the Imperial Russian Ballet. In contrast to the lavish and privileged world enjoyed by Clara in the original, she is now among a group of orphans oppressed by the evil Dr. Dross and his wife. She and her friends are also bullied by the couple's children, Sugar and Fritz, and when Clara receives as a Christmas gift a nutcracker who comes to life, Sugar becomes a rival for his affections. The story while more coherent and more politically sensitive than the original is still a bit of a muddle. Clara remains a rather bland characterisation and the role of Sugar does seem to dominate various scenes. However, Bourne's inventive choreography and Anthony Ward's amazing design, both of which have been updated for the latest production, make this Nutcracker the entrancing experience that it is. The drab interior of the orphanage breathtakingly opens onto the lovely frozen lake where the dancers playfully skate. That stark whiteness gives way to the amazing riot of colour that is Sweetieland. The national dances become the parade of the Allsort trio, the Gobstopper boys and the Marshmallow girls. Yet, while all of these might be delectable, it is the Knickerbocker Glory who is the pièce de résistance! In the end, it is this production's delicious complementarity of design and dance which beautifully succeed in capturing the spirit of Tchaikovsky's sumptuous score. The whole show becomes an artfully enticing bonbon that is the quite perfect Christmas indulgence.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.

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