Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!, Bristol Hippodrome

WHEN a 30-year-old production , even one which was enormously successful in its original presentation, is revived and sent out once again to face the public, more often than not it has the look and feel of an antique piece of furniture tarted up with a fresh coat of paint.

When however, the show has been newly designed and refreshed by a great and imaginative choreographer, Matthew Bourne, and his wonderful team of set, lighting, and sound designers of the New Adventurers Company, any such thoughts would be an insult to their fine combined theatrical skills.

There is nothing stale or sad about this fresh look at one of the world’s great ballets, backed by a Tchaikovsky score containing many of his greatest hits. To bring this enchanting story of a young girl’s dream in which her Christmas doll comes to life, leading her into many adventures, Bourne has assembled a young company bubbling over with dance talent and enthusiasm.

From the word go, they give the impression that they love every moment of this new look at the story, which takes us, with a touch of humour always close at hand, from the cold harshness of an orphanage to a set dominated by a spectacular multi-tiered giant wedding cake, and communicate that pleasure to the audience.
The imaginative way in which those ever-popular set of dances, are now interpreted with delightful skill and great humour by Cupids, Allsorts, Marshmallows, Gobstoppers, dressed like Bikers, Humbugs, and some added fascinatingly-costumed characters, is mind boggling.

And when they are all brought together for a full company number there is so much to see and enjoy that you want them to dance at least three encores each time so that you can fully take in all the goodies on view.

Although the story goes down slightly different lines from the traditional settings, it never loses the true spirt of this fascinating look at the real and fantasy world conjured up by the innocent young Clara. Equally adept at presenting, fun, pathos, frustration, love, joy and sadness, Katrina Lyndon’s Clara is a delight. Her battles, with Ashley Shaw’s more sophisticated, sometimes deliciously spiteful Sugar, form a lovely centre piece to the story.

Male principals Harrison Dowzell, who plays Philbert and the Nutcracker ,and Dominic North as Fritz, have to pull out all the stops to ensure their moments in the spotlight are fully appreciated.

With more broadly choreographed and costumed figures at their disposal, Danny Reubens and Daisy May Kemp, have an easier chance of achieving their 15 minutes of fame as Mr and Mrs Dross, and they do so in style.

It is most fitting that the photographs of the company and creative teams in the programme show them all in childhood, because with magical imagination and wonderful skills, Matthew Bourne and his company fill the stage with the innocent joy and pleasure of that burgeoning part of life. You do not have to be great fan of ballet or even a lover of dance to enjoy this joyous production, which is pure delight from begging to end.


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