Review: Nutcracker, Bristol Hippodrome

18 04 2012

Matthew Bourne creates ballet, but not as we know it. His works are so adventurous in their creativity and so audacious in turning traditional and well-known ballets inside-out that he must be the only choreographer working today whose name alone can guarantee full houses. This is not simply Nutcracker, but Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!

That exclamation mark is important. How else to describe the sheer vitality of this sumptuously divine production? A production so tasty you could lick it.

It starts as it means to go on, with our cast of waifs and strays coming on stage one by one. Through their actions and facial expressions alone, we can get a good idea of their individual personalities and these continue for the next two hours, regardless of the fact that who are initially orphans then turn into marshmallows, angels and an assortment of other colourful characters.

Bourne injects such childlike enthusiasm into his Nutcracker that it is impossible to know where to look when the stage is full of his performers. Somewhere not to look is the orchestra, for there is none. Instead we have the note perfect Royal Philharmonic Orchestra piped in on speakers.

The effortless grace and elegance of the dancers are matched by stunning costumes and scenery. Never before have I heard such an audible gasp from a Hippodrome audience as when a three-tiered cake the size of a suburban semi was revealed in all its high camp glory.

Particularly fabulous costumes included the flowing dress of a fierce Spanish flamenco dancer, accessorised with liquorice allsorts; and a trio of male bikers, whose pink, yellow and blue crash helmets matched their t-shirts and boots.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is an audacious treat.

Nutcracker is at Bristol Hippodrome until April 21. Click here for more information.


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18 04 2012
Barry Harvey (@barryharvey)

Brilliant. My thoughts entirely. I loved the way the dancers came on stage and reacted to the audience with their own personalities – shy, exuberant, OCD – which they then kept throughout their performance as the children. It was great to see such characterisation in a ballet.

The vigour and sheer joy of the performances took up every bit if the vast space available Particularly in the second act, when they had to perform against the amazing set and costumes.

It was mesmerising and just left you with a feeling of elation. Somehow, even the cast waving to us at the end – dropping down to wave under the curtain as it was falling for the last time – seemed natural and a fitting end.

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