Director/Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
It’s that time of year where the imagination of children is at its very best – overflowing with magic and vibrant imagery as thoughts of Christmas, pressies under the tree and goodies aplenty dominate their little worlds.
And in Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, we are invited into the lively mind of Clara (Cordelia Braithwaite) – a young and innocent girl who is experiencing friendships, her first love, heartache and all the emotions in between. Starting in the dull and monochrome surroundings of the Dickensian orphanage and moving to The Frozen Lake in Act One, the audience are then transported to Sweetieland in Act Two – the stark contrast of scenes bringing Clara’s vivid dreams to life just perfectly.
Once again, choreographer Matthew Bourne has taken a much-loved traditional tale and made it his own – not losing the essence of the story that has made it a firm family favourite, but instead adding that extra bit of pixie dust and sparkle that makes his work all the more enticing and accessible. And having been retelling this particular tale for nearly 30 years, he has not just brought the same touring production to the stage this festive season, but instead revamped the choreography and storytelling to keep it fresh and fantastical for his fans. It’s not necessarily better than his previous version, but it’s still an unbelievable piece of entertainment.
What has remained is the gorgeous Tchaikovsky score, which runs throughout the entire show and that is complemented just beautifully with a whole range of dance styles and arrangements. With Bourne’s work, you aren’t just going to see a ballet. You will get all the satisfaction, beauty and talent of an English National production, but will be treated to a spectacle that has far more eclectic content that opens it up to a much wider audience – who perhaps want the plot without the stereotypical pomp.
Whether a solo, a pas de deux or a group number, the dancing of this cast cannot be faulted. They are magnificent and versatile storytellers, who without saying a word, are able to convey a full story through their movement, gestures and facial expressions. Guaranteed, you could watch this production a handful of times and still spot something new and exciting – each cast member and partnership portraying their own little narrative, especially in the larger numbers. The unison work is superbly executed and the duets, particularly those with Clara, Nutcracker, Sugar and Fritz are just captivating – your eyes are drawn to the beautiful lifts, seamless transitions and chemistry between the characters.
It is obvious why Braithwaite has landed the starring role. She may be petite, but she can certainly fill that stage with her energy, charisma, and comedy. From the very get-go, you can’t help but be drawn to her performance and her engagement with the rest of the cast. She quite literally feels every single movement and is an absolute joy to watch.
With the added detail of stunning costumes, lighting displays, and set designs (the cake scene is just something else), it’s a production that is sure to capture your heart and get you feeling like a kid at Christmas. It is guaranteed to add plenty of colour to these cold winter nights, give you that sugar rush feeling – without the sickness – and get you well and truly into the festive spirit.
Runs until Saturday 4 December 2021