As a festive treat, my brother and I took our partners to see Matthew Bourne’s 30th anniversary production of Nutcracker at Sadler’s Wells, London. We wanted them to see this particular show as it is special to Matthew and I, as we studied it in our A level Dance studies. My memory of the show did not disappoint and it was fabulous to share the inventive storytelling and joy-infused choreography with George and Alex.
This adaptation of the Nutcracker opens in a dismally-grey, crooked Orphanage dormitory. To me it reminds me of the wretched conditions imagined in Lemony Snicket’s books “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” The orphans quickly make the best of their situation by using their imagination and hanging simple Christmas decorations of paper chains and adoring a very unhappy-looking Christmas tree. They are visited by two smartly dressed adult couples, whom the children are presented to. Each child is given an individual gift. Clara, the protagonist of the story, is presented with a Nutcracker. She is enchanted by the doll and in her dreams imagines that he takes the form of an orphan boy, who she has a crush on. Together they escape the orphanage and visit the Frozen Lake and later Sweetie Land. The characters in this magical place, have personality similarities to the other children from the orphanage creating opportunities for you as audience member to connect with earlier motifs (specific dance moves that are repeated to suggest a particular person) It is comforting to spot these motifs as an audience member as they are like a recognisable habit of a loved one.
Once we reach Sweetie Land, Bourne introduces new characters who look and move like popular sweet treats. These choices are informed by the sound world of each dance movement. For example the Chinese Dance has a light and detached melody which is reflected as a cohort of Marshmallow ladies. They are adorned with sugary pink bouncing-feather Russian Hats. It’s quite the scene and makes me think of chattering women trying to find a location without a map.
If you would like to watch a ballet but worry about how accessible it is to understand the story without words or whether it will last too long. I really recommend watching one of Bourne’s interpretations. He pays close attention to details of storytelling and utilises the power of costume, scenery and props to keep your inner child entertained and mesmerised. The movements have strong gestural foundations and are easier to interpret and often encourage the odd chuckle.
The cast were fantastic and the dancing was wonderful. They did a wonderful job and I would encourage you to watch a snippet.