Nutcracker! is Matthew Bournes deliciously witty and colourful version of the most traditional of Christmas ballets, with Tchaikovskys magical score at its heart. This box of treats is crammed full of his trademark saucy humour, inventiveness and a childlike sense of fun. Bournes Nutcracker-with-a-twist still follows the theme of growing up and first love a coming of age story told through the dreams and nightmares of a young girl.
Matthew Bourne is one of the UKs most innovative and popular choreographers. He has achieved world-wide success with his new versions of the classics, such as the ground-breaking Swan Lake, with its all-male swans, Cinderella and The Car Man. His Play Without Words for the Royal National Theatre received two Olivier Awards. He is the only British director to have won the Tony Award for Best Director and Best Choreographer of a Musical in the same year.
One of his earliest pieces of choreography, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker is also one of his most charming and imaginative. Moving the Christmas party from a comfortable middle-class home to a Dickensian orphanage whose proprietors starve their wards to spoil their own children, it then shifts to a wonderland where sweets and sugar are a none-too-subtle metaphor for sexual awakening. In both worlds, Clara (Etta Murfitt) has to struggle to be heroine, or even a participant, in her own story and her struggle for the muscular, sexy Alan Vincent with her bitchy rival Sugar (Soranne Curtin) is not resolved until the last moments of the ballet.
Along the way, Bourne finds charming and sexy ways to make all of the well-known genre moments of the score fresh and new – the Chinese dancers are a bunch of daffy marshmallow girls in pink, for example, whose dance is all strutting cuteness. There is a truly stunning transformation scene at the beginning of the waltz, which like much else in the score becomes a complex ensemble in which all the character dancers have their own things to do. Bourne’s Nutcracker has become a popular favourite, and deservedly so.