It’s possibly the most iconoclastic Nutcracker around, and in pure Matthew Bourne fashion, it’s slightly sinister, funny, touching, and not a million miles away from the well-known original story of the little girl Clara, who’s transported by her magical Nutcracker to a land of snow and sweets on Christmas night.
Matthew Bourne first tackled the Christmas ballet par excellence in 1992; it’s had a number of revivals, but hasn’t been seen in London for almost a decade; the version coming to Sadler’s Wells for Christmas 2020 has been updated, freshened and spruced up.
Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker!, New Adventures. Photo: Simon Annand
The choreographer sets Act I not in the cosy home of a well-to-do bourgeois family, but in a grim orphanage. The original magician and maker of the nutcracker doll, Dr Drosselmeyer, becomes truly sinister Dr Dross, who runs the orphanage with his equally tyrannical wife. They are parents to two nasty little numbers, Fritz and Sugar, and Clara is one of the inmates.
There’s a Christmas party of sorts, where the initially scary plastic Nutcracker is revealed to be a boy from the orphanage. He and Clara take off to the Land of Sweets, first passing through a snow scene, without which not even Matthew Bourne could have devised a proper Nutcracker.
Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker, New Adventures. Photo: Simon Annand
In the Land of Sweets they meet silly Marshmallow Girls, flamenco dancing Liquorice Allsorts and a variety of other outrageous takes on the divertissements of the original Nutcracker; and Clara has to fight to get her man, who’s inexplicably gone off with the girl Sugar (Bourne’s take on the Sugar Plum Fairy).
It’s all great fun, even while imbued with the odd frisson of unpleasantness… Sets and costumes are designed by Anthony Ward and Matthew Bourne does – of course – use Tchaikovsky’s glorious original score.
Matthew Bourne is a consummate storyteller, every single one of his takes on the classics, be it the film of The Red Shoes, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, or Swan Lake with its all-male complement of feral swans, to mention but a few, have been an instant hit.
It may feel as though we haven’t yet quite recovered from last Christmas, but Matthew Bourne’s immensely popular productions tend to sell out quite quickly, so you may want to start planning ahead now for this year’s festive season.
|What||Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! - New Adventures, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
07 Dec 21 – 30 Jan 22, 19:30 mats times and dates vary. No performance 24, 25 Dec & 1 Jan) Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Price||£15-£85 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|