In Review

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! – a ‘riproaring return to form’

Originally staged in 1992, this adaptation has been revived for the first time in ten years

In the opening scene of Matthew Bourne’s reinterpretation of The Nutcracker, the 20-strong cast wander onto the stage and gaze wide-eyed at the audience, said Sarah Crompton in The Observer. Their “anticipation and wonder” reflect the magic of this “blissful” show.

Originally staged in 1992, it has been revived for the first time in ten years – and in this incarnation, which tours the country until late April, it seems “more clever and shiny than ever”. Bourne’s choreography combines ballet with elements of folk, social and contemporary dance – and it mines Tchaikovsky’s score with an “understanding of its expansiveness”, but also a feeling for the melancholic longing that underlies its great melodies.

For this “enchanting” revival, Bourne has substantially reworked the piece, said Debra Craine in The Times. The dance feels “more fluid” than before, while designer Anthony Ward has revamped the settings, which take the action from a Dickensian orphanage to a “dazzling frozen lake”– the scene of a skating party – and, finally, to the “giddy multicoloured vibrancy of Sweetieland”.

An “exuberant fantasy of old Hollywood musicals”, the last features an “explosion of colour, plenty of saucy comedy and a host of zany characters” (Marshmallow girls, Gobstopper boys, an Allsorts trio, a Humbug bouncer and so on).

This Nutcracker has a “riotous sense of fun” and features several brilliantly comedic performances, said Mark Monahan in The Daily Telegraph. Yet the laughs never come at the expense of discipline – in either the “playful geometry of Bourne’s ensemble pieces”, or in his “showpiece solos and duets”.

Indeed, Bourne’s New Adventures troupe has never looked sharper. Cordelia Braithwaite is excellent as the smitten heroine Clara, and Shoko Ito is “arguably first among mightily impressive equals” as a “beautifully expressive” Cupid. If last year’s The Midnight Bell was a rare disappointment from Bourne, this Nutcracker marks a “riproaring return to form”. You should “do yourself an epic favour and go and see it”.

Sadler’s Wells, London EC1, until 30 January, then touring (new-adventures.net)

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