Review: Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is the sweetest of seasonal treats

Photo: Johan Persson
Tchaikovsky’s glorious score combines with Matthew Bourne’s dazzling choreography to create a new and charmingly irreverent reinterpretation
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Over the past 30 years New Adventures has transformed the popularity of dance in Britain, creating works that have altered the public perception of what is possible when it comes to telling stories without words.

A truly national dance-theatre touring company and one of Britain’s leading exporters of dance internationally, their productions include Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Red Shoes, Edward Scissorhands and Matthew Bourne’s acclaimed re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet.

Now, the sweetest of all Matthew Bourne’s treats returns for the first time in almost ten years.

Photo: Johan Persson

Tchaikovsky’s ballet of The Nutcracker is almost 130 years old, and New Adventures’ Nutcracker! has been performed for nearly 30 years – but this new production has been substantially re-choreographed and has a fresh new look.

In this reinvented version, Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous score and Anthony Ward’s delectable sets and costumes combine with Matthew Bourne’s dazzling choreography to create a new and charmingly irreverent interpretation of the classic.

Photo: Johan Persson

The large, lavish Christmas party which usually opens the classical version has been eschewed, and instead Clara’s story begins with a darkly comic Christmas Eve at Dr. Dross’ Orphanage.

From there, we follow her bittersweet journey from the monochrome Dickensian orphanage to a shimmering frozen lake as the famous ‘snowflakes’ sequence which ends Act One is replaced by an ice-skating winter wonderland in this new interpretation.

After the interval, we’re thrust into to the scrumptious, technicolour candy kingdom of Sweetieland, influenced by the lavish Hollywood musicals of the 1930s.

Photo: Johan Persson

The traditional depiction of ‘national’ dances has been re-thought for a modern audience, with the creation of Sweetieland characters linked to their orphanage counterparts.

In Clara’s imagination her friends become the fluffy Marshmallow girls, the yobby Gobstopper boys, the vain Allsort trio and the lewd Knickerbocker Glory.

Photo: Johan Persson

The twins are now striped pyjama-clad Cupids, while Dr and Mrs Dross transform into King Sherbet and Queen Candy, the rulers of Sweetieland.

The whole thing becomes an explosion of captivating colour and movement, with generous helpings of Matthew Bourne’s trademark wit, pathos and magical fantasy.

Photo: Johan Persson

One thing that hasn’t been changed or updated, however, is Tchaikovsky’s much-loved score, which remains as glorious as ever.

This modern magical masterpiece has the power to turn us all into kids again.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is at The Lowry until Saturday 4th December 2021. Tickets are available here.

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