Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!
The Lowry Lyric Theatre
Tickets £19 to £37. To book, visit thelowry.com or ring 0843 208 6000
THE Nutcracker might be a festive family favourite, but Matthew Bourne’s 20th anniversary revival of his version gives the familiar tale a grown-up twist.
Gone is the cloying sense of a well-to-do family bestowing each other with Christmas presents while their rather spoiled children bicker over who gets to keep the nutcracker given to them by their godfather. In its stead is a grim and grey orphanage, presided over by the ghastly Dr Dross and his wife, who have more than a touch of the Third Reich about them. Clara and her orphan friends are relentlessly tormented by Sugar and Fritz, the Dross’ own children, and long to escape. Their chance comes when the broken nutcracker comes creepily to life, causing chaos and giving Sugar and Fritz a taste of their own medicine.
In a snowy wonderland, the nutcracker is revealed to be the quiet, dark haired boy that Clara likes from the orphanage. But no sooner have they danced a tender pas de deux than Sugar comes to lure him away, in the way that spoiled little rich girls do.
The second half sees Clara desperately following her beloved through Sweetieland, where the characters become very tasty, in more than one sense of the word, and the dances come thick and fast. Bourne, the “bad boy of ballet”, infuses his choreography with touches of flamenco, tap and street, and masses of wit and charm. A trio of liquorice allsorts add some Spanish passion, a lounging, opium addled Knickerbocker Glory performs some very rude moves indeed and a gaggle of fluffy mashmallows prance and preen so much to make one think for a moment we might be watching Clueless: The Ballet.
New Adventures remain consistently one of the best ballet companies around, with performances full not only of technical brilliance but also character and sparkle. And if Clara’s happy ending seems slightly contrived, who cares? This breathtaking production has enough magic to make even the impossible seem possible.