Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!
Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! returns for the first time in 10 years for its 30-year Anniversary. The exciting and modern reimagining of the traditional ballet is the best introduction to the ballet world. Bourne is well known for his modern re-telling of the classics and has built a name for himself as the face of modern ballet. Due to COVID, this was the first ballet I had seen in a long while due to theatres being closed or operating on limited capacity. It was so refreshing to see a full theatre once again after so long without people being able to enjoy the art of ballet. Matthew Bourne’s work is always a pleasure for me to watch and I particularly love his creativity and the colourful fun he brings to the Nutcracker.
Beginning in black and white, the children of an orphanage get ready for Christmas and receive small gifts, Clara’s being the Nutcracker doll. The audience all chuckled as dramatic CPR was given to the doll after it had been broken. The way the dancers portray the characters of the children through their movement is spectacular. Matthew Bourne’s retelling is not only a fabulous Christmas Special, but also a story of love and adventure. This is seen particularly in the second act as Clara sees her Nutcracker be enchanted by Princess Sugar and Clara goes after him. Sweetie Land is entirely and fantastically magical with each of the characters in the orphanage being transformed.
One of the characters I was perhaps most eager to see was the interpretation of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Just by hearing the name, many people can already imagine the music that goes with the character, so I was anxious to see how this well-known character was reimagined. I enjoyed Ashley Shaw’s Princess Sugar as an entertaining character, and I thought she played the somewhat snooty character very well. That being said, Princess Sugar can not hold a candle to the original elegance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. There was also no pointework in the performance, which normally is something I admire to see from Matthew Bourne, but this time it took away from Princess Sugar, making her seem more regular and like all the other characters.
All in all, this was a spectacular show, and it was so exciting to be back in a full capacity theatre. The audience was so invested in the performance the entire time and it was so good to see the variety in ages that the ballet appealed to. As always Matthew Bourne’s unique ballet medley style was nothing short of perfection. Being sat fairly near the back of the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham, it is very easy to spot little mistakes in timing and spacing, but I thought that on the whole, the ballet was very neat and precise. This could have been down to the small cast size as most of the dances were made up of smaller groups, however timing in Bourne’s ballets is usually impeccable. Overall, it was an incredible performance all round from the dancers, choreographers and costume and set design, with a magical ending of Clara and her Nutcracker making a great escape from the orphanage.