Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!
Music by Tchaikovsky
The Lowry, 20 March 2012
The whole of this show – the complete shebang – is an exercise in enchantment.
It begins with the still alive and kicking orphans shuffling bashfully onstage, into the glare of a waiting audience, surprise etched on their faces, and ends in a nightclub whose entrance is an inviting, open mouth (think of Mick Jagger’s lips) and whose interior is graced by a gigantic wedding cake. It is the figures on the tiers of the cake below the bride and groom who come alive: a telling detail.
Among them there’s a lounge lizard with a pompadour that is topped by – what else? – a cherry and a lady in a liquorice allsorts dress (the doorman to the night club might also have been dressed as one of the less popular liquorice allsorts). And there’re a gang of sweet girls on the razz.
Wherever you look, whether at the choreography or costumes or sets, your eye encounters delight. The highlight for me was when the ginger boy toy – he’s a catalyst for intimacy – came to life, in a scene that alludes to both Frankenstein and Coppelia.
What makes the show work so well is that it retains the fairytale feel while adding a definite air of eroticism, a subdued kinkiness or naughtiness. So there’s one lad – one of the poor, betrodden orphans – who rather than a deflated football prefers a doll for Christmas, liking nothing better than to look up her dress… Or again, in the second part, the emphasis is on kissing and, lets say, the sweetness of human flesh rather than sweets per se (as in the traditional version of the ballet) – though liquorice allsorts, as indicated, do get a major look in. All of this naughtiness is done with subtle humour, mind, and in the twinkling of an eye. Young children are unlikely to take much heed of it and there’s much – an abundance of stuff, actually – in this show to enchant and delight them. So unlike Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, I’d definitely recommend Nutcracker! as being suitable for children. This was a magical, transporting evening, a wonderful version of the story.
Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! Is at The Lowry until 24 March, details here.