PLYMOUTH – THEATRE ROYAL
MATTHEW BOURNE’S NUTCRACKER! till 20 NOVEMBER 2021
Theatre Royal Plymouth – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 16 NOVEMBER 2021
If there is a better living storyteller for the stage than Sir Matthew Bourne then I will be most surprised. His NUTCRACKER – celebrating its 30th Anniversary with a spanking new production – has such a lucid narrative you could be reading a book or watching a stage play instead of a ballet. Bourne creates with a glint in his eye, a smile on his lips, a tear on his cheek and with joy in his heart. This is as perfect a production as I have seen ever, anywhere.
Taking the wonders of Tchaikovsky’s music and creating a new ballet – as he famously has done with the same composer’s ‘Swan Lake’ – is no mean feat, but here, it is as if it was meant to be. A seamless marriage of the old and the new, performed by his Company ‘New Adventures’, this ‘Nutcracker’ is just the tonic which we could all do with after the last 18 months or so.
Setting the story in the grim orphanage of Dr Dross (a reference to the original protagonist Drosselmeyer) – with more than a nod to Charles Dickens – we meet the orphans who are presented with a Christmas present and follow Clara who is given a ventriloquist’s dummy – the Nutcracker. When the toy comes to life – pretty disturbing that – all hell breaks loose and the children rebel. The dummy transforms into a beautiful young man and he and Clara fall in love; a love that is blighted by Dross’s vile children Sugar and Fritz. With a trip to Sweetieland, what seems to be a fantasy concludes with the ultimate happy ending.
The story is inventive, clever and works like a dream, complemented by utterly sublime designs by Anthony Ward – it is such a treat on the eye. The sets make you breathless and the costuming warm the heart with their inventiveness. Needless to say the dancing is out of the top drawer. Matthew Bourne really tests out his dancers – there are no conventions here, it is original, edgy and entertaining and the whole Company rise to the challenge.
I can’t highlight as much as I would like to here, but let me just mention the orphan boy looking up the dolly’s skirt, the boys nightcaps, the Humbug Bouncer, the slinky, lascivious Knickerbocker Glory and the final revelation. These made me smile, laugh and cry. Waves of nostalgia blew over me in a tsunami of emotion. I cannot recall being so utterly mesmerised.
Danny Reubens and Stephanie Billers obviously have a ball as Dr Dross and his wife, the Matron – as well as their alter-egos in Sweetieland, King Sherbert and Queen Candy. Likewise Ashley Shaw and the highly experienced, Dominic North, have the time of their lives as the hideous Dross offspring – they make you cringe and laugh out loud in equal measure.
Cordelia Braithwaite is a beautifully vulnerable and coy Clara and her joy is shared by the audience when the insanely handsome Nutcracker appears – Harrison Dowzell not only looks the part, but dances like a dream.
I have to also mention the wonderful Cupids of Katrina Lyndon and Keenan Fletcher – a delightful duo with just wonderful timing.
This is a cast of first class dancers who act brilliantly – further strengthening the narrative – it is a joy to behold.
Sir Matthew mentions in the programme that this new version has been substantially re-choreographed and many of the designs have developed further from the 1992 original. He refers to the fact that he continues to find further depth to the great composer’s score – and I certainly did myself.
‘Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker’ is a confection of love, of nostalgia of kitsch and joy; it is a theatrical treat which eclipses any other entertainment I can think of. There is so much to see you need to see it on repeat – so book tickets again and again if you are able.
Ok. You get the picture. I loved it. It is a privilege to witness talent on this level and I doff my cap and bow my head in recognition. There is no misstep in this faultless production. What utter joy!
CAST & CREATIVES
DR DROSS/KING SHERBERT – DANNY REUBENS
MATRON/QUEEN CANDY – STEPHANIE BILLERS
SUGAR/PRINCESS SUGAR – ASHLEY SHAW
FRITZ/PRINCE BON-BON – DOMINIC NORTH
CLARA – CORDELIA BRAITHWAITE
NUTCRACKER – HARRISON DOWZELL
THE CUPIDS – KATRINA LYNDON, KEENAN FLETCHER
THE ALLSORTS TRIO – KAYLA COLLYMORE, ISAAC PETER BOWRY, JAMES LOVELL
THE KNICKERBOCKER GLORY – JONATHON LUKE BAKER
THE MARSHMALLOW GIRLS – JESSICA CROMPTON. ROSE GODDARD. SHOKO ITO, KURUMI KAMAYACHI, GABRIELLE DE SOUZA
THE GOBSTOPPERS – BEJAMIN BARLO BAZELEY, ALISTAIR BEATTIE, CAMERON FLYNN
MUSIC – PYOTR IIYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER – MATTHEW BOURNE
DESIGNER – ANTHONY WARD
LIGHTING DESIGN – HOWARD HARRISON
SOUND DESIGN – PAUL GROOTHUIS
ORIGINAL RECORDING BY THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY BRETT MORRIS