Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!

A New Adventures production of the ballet to music by Tchaikovsky, original scenario devised by Matthew Bourne, Martin Duncan and Anthony Ward

Dr Dross – Scott Ambler
Matron, his wife – Etta Murfitt
Sugar, their daughter – Michela Meazza
Fritz, their son – Drew McOnie
Clara – Kerry Biggin
Nutcracker – Alan Vincent
The Orphans – Lucy Alderman, Ashley Bain, Kerry Biggin, Pia Driver, Gavin Eden, Carrie Johnson, Simon Karaiskos, Luke Murphy, Dominic North, Gemma Payne, Maryam Pourian, Irad Timberlake, Mami Tomotani, Alan Vincent, Chloe Wilkinson & Matthew Williams
The Orphanage Governors – Francesco D’Astici, Adam Galbraith, Helen Moore & Hannah Vassallo
The Cupids – Gavin Eden & Mami Tomotani
Princess Sugar – Michela Meaza
Prince Bon-Bon – Drew McOnie
King Sherbet – Scott Ambler
Queen Candy – Etta Murfitt
Humbug Bouncer – Adam Galbraith
The Liquorice Allsorts – Pia Driver, Dominic North & Irad Timberlake
Knickerbocker Glory – Ashley Bain
The Marshmallow Girls – Lucy Alderman, Carrie Johnson, Gemma Payne, Maryam Pourian, Chloe Wilkinson
The Gobstoppers – Simon Karaiskos, Luke Murphy & Matthew Williams

The Orchestra conducted by Timothy Henty

Matthew Bourne – Director & Choreographer
Anthony Ward – Designer
Howard Harrison – Lighting Designer
Paul Groothuis – Sound Designer

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 18 December, 2007
Venue: Sadler's Wells Theatre, London

Matthew Bourne's 'Nutcracker!'. ©Catherine AshmoreNever one to do things by halves, Matthew Bourne has reinvented the Christmas season’s favourite ballet (there are currently three productions of “The Nutcracker” in London alone). The original ballet dates from 1892 when Marius Petipa adapted E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story of Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaums where little Clara plays with her nutcracker given to her by Herr Drosselmeyer, a visiting toy-maker, who fashions it in the shape of a toy soldier. When Clara falls asleep she dreams about her toys coming to life and having a fight with the Mouse King and his army of soldier mice. When the Mouse King dies, he turns into a Prince and they go on a journey where they encounter dancing Snowflakes in an ice-skating extravaganza and end up in the Land of Sweets where all the different nationalities dance for Clara and her Prince.

Matthew Bourne’s version shakes up the scenario by setting the ballet in an orphanage. He found the story difficult to follow for children and so tried to make something for the whole family, about a little girl who starts with nothing, grows up experiencing her first love, and who eventually gets her man – something that most people can relate to. He also dresses his cast in the colourful fun clothes of today rather than ballet skirts.

A scene from Matthew Bourne's Designer Anthony Ward has certainly gone to town on the settings and the costumes. In the final scenes the clothes look good enough to eat when the ballet depicts the national dances as various kinds of sweets: girls dressed as pink and white Marshmallows, tough boys with hard hats as Gobstoppers, a trio of Liquorice Allsorts and a snake-hipped charmer playing a lascivious Knickerbocker Glory, complete with creamy quiff. It’s all ruled over by King Sherbet and Queen Candy, with a Humbug Bouncer on the door. Drosselmeyer the toy-maker is now the head of the orphanage, which is almost Dickensian in the way it treats the children. It is certainly a neat spin on the original and has proved popular since it first appeared in 1992, although it has been revised subsequently.

The young cast enjoys itself in Bourne’s signature choreography, which never goes for the obvious moves. Scott Ambler is a fine Dr Dross with Etta Murfitt as his wife, the Matron, and they appear later in Sweetieland as the King and Queen. Kerry Biggin plays Clara as an ordinary girl and not the spoilt brat of the original story. Her partner as the Nutcracker is Alan Vincent and they are well paired. But the whole show is really an ensemble piece and it is in the corps work that Bourne really comes into his own. The choreography for the orphans, the snow flakes and the sweeties is so inventive and witty and the dancers have such individual personalities that the whole enjoyment of the piece comes from the ensemble dancing which is so well drilled it literally never puts a foot wrong. Tchaikovsky’s music has never sounded so enticing and the whole show becomes a complete revelation. This is one not to miss.

  • Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is at Sadler’s Wells Theatre until Sunday 20 January before going on a UK tour from Tuesday 29 January
  • Nutcracker!

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