Matthew Bourne’s ‘Nutcracker!’ carries the explanation mark for a reason – the spectacular re-working of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet is over the top, exaggerated and fantastically indulgent.
The set itself radiates the contemporary tone, using postmodern, angular scenery from the beginning.
Bourne sets the first act in a Dickensian orphanage, removing it from the usual splendour of an elaborate Christmas party.
The children are dressed in bleak greys and shown receiving toys which are consequently snatched from them by the bratty children of vile orphanage director Dr Dross (Daniel Wright).
Protagonist Clara (the superb Hannah Vassallo) receives a nutcracker toy, who magically transforms into her orphanage sweetheart.
Their first dance embodies the excitement and anxiety of first love. With wide-eyed innocence and underlying tones of sexual tension, it is relatable for everyone.
The effect is captivating and the audience shares Clara’s pain as the spoilt Sugar (Chloe Wilkinson) entices the Nutcracker (Chris Trenfield).
Act two is in stark contrast to the drab orphanage, with its lurid explosion of ‘Sweetieland’.
Bourne modernises the concept with a pink marshmallow hen party and a humbug bouncer who refuses Clara entry to the festivities of Nutcracker and Sugar’s wedding.
The elaborate wedding cake scene marks both the production’s highlight and its premature climax.
Whereas the set and costumes are spectacular, the story and dancing lack slightly in the second act, often focussing too heavily on Sugar and making it difficult for the audience to relate to Clara.
Bourne however redeems himself, providing a truly bittersweet ending. Clara gets her happily ever after with the Nutcracker, but without the fantasy Sweetieland setting.
Traditionally a Christmas ballet, Bourne tailors ‘Nutcracker!’ to all seasons and all audiences.
Two hours of blissful music and a wonderful company of dancers; it’s a sweet treat for everyone.
Visit www.atgtickets.com/venue/New-Wimbledon-Theatre/7/ for information and tickets. The show runs until Saturday 17 March at the New Wimbledon Theatre.