Vox Vanguard's Nutcracker review: a glittering, champagne-drenched extravaganza
An immersive take on the classic ballet, complete with hula-hooping and acrobatics
Ever thought that what the Nutcracker was missing was a hula-hooping, queer circus artist? Then Vox Vanguard has you covered. Their immersive night, based – very loosely – around the classic ballet, is a sparkling, champagne-drenched and feather-covered extravaganza meant for those who want their Christmas served upside down with a twist.
Vox aim to bring classical music to a younger audience, but their events are best thought of not as shows, but as all-in-one nights out. This was not one to attend if you were hoping to go and see the Nutcracker. You are hosted by Drosselmeyer (played with boundless energy by Adam Perchard, who recently hosted a Frankenstein-themed Halloween dinner) in his workshop, as he presents us with various gifts: a ballerina sugar plum fairy, an acrobat nutcracker, and, somewhat oddly, a jazz singer. All of this is accompanied by the Vox chamber orchestra, playing snippets of Tchaikovsky’s score.
The venue on this occasion was the private room above Beach Blanket Babylon, a Shoreditch cocktail lounge, although the cast has been touring the country performing for private clients. There were a few tables, a bar, and a projection screen, on which slightly superfluous Christmas graphics were displayed throughout the night. The orchestra, perhaps the most impressive part of the whole ensemble, manage to play standing up spaced out around the room, and even at one point perform a sort of marching routine.
The structure of the night is that the Perchard, part of the hit queer comedy troupe Sex Shells, gives quick bursts of narration, delivered with maximum flourish, and the other performers provide a few minutes each of entertainment. Joel Hatfield does a few backflips and somersaults among the crowd, and ballerina Natasha Trigg brings some tradition to proceedings with a skillful routine demonstrated in a very tight space. Between these interludes the hall becomes more like any other bar, with people milling around and drinking festive cocktails until the next bit of the show begins, and eventually a DJ comes on to finish off the night. Before that, though, Georgia Crandon comes on with a whopper of a voice to complete the show and, slightly incongruously, belt out some Christmas songs as well.
The show – which kicks off with preludes from Oliver Aubrey Smith-Wellnitz spinning hula hoops in staggering high heels and a dramatic Arabinan scarf dance – has no plot. It’s also not particularly “immersive” aside from the fact that there’s no stage, and occasionally one of the performers will grab a guest’s champagne glass and take a swig for comic effect. Each act’s contribution is also quite minimal; they have very little time and space to show off what are evidently impressive skill-sets. But again, Vox’s events are best viewed not as shows, but as exclusive nights out, with a private bar, shimmering décor and very glamorous guests (quite literally – the dress code was “magical glamour”).
In any case, Vox are worth keeping an eye on for when you’re looking for something different on a night out, or when you want to feel like you’re on an episode of Made in Chelsea. They’re not cheap – the base price for tickets to the Nutcracker was £50, not including drinks. But they’re certainly one-of-a-kind, and are bound to give you plenty to tell your friends about the morning after.