Life is sweeter when dance takes centre stage and the sugar rush from Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! certainly leaves audience members on a delicious high.
Bourne devised his dance-theatre interpretation of the fantasy ballet in 1992. It was his first full-length work and became the first big hit for his company, New Adventures. Now, almost a decade since it was last performed, Nutcracker! is back for its thirtieth anniversary. This makes the current production a revival and a celebration – sweet!
In the ballet, Clara falls asleep after her family’s Christmas Eve party and is transported on a dreamy journey to faraway lands. She helps good triumph over evil and is entertained by sweets from around the world. The story is about the magic of childhood, the power of dreams and awakening an appetite for grown-up experiences.
In Nutcracker! Bourne adds fizz and flavour for a refreshing twist. He retains the sense of innocence and wonder from the classical version but shakes up the scenario to depict the nightmarish reality and hedonistic dreams of an orphan named Clara. When a nutcracker doll comes to life and helps her escape from the orphanage, she follows him to Sweetieland and is caught in a love triangle. Will Clara find more than a momentary taste of happiness with her sweetheart?
Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! arrives for performances in Milton Keynes from Tuesday 15 February and theatregoers can expect a feel-good treat.
Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne’s whimsical dance-theatre take on the traditional coming-of-age Christmas ballet retains Tchaikovsky’s glorious score but adds some scrumptious surprises. Described by Bourne and his company, New Adventures, as a ‘show for all seasons’, Nutcracker! indulges the evergreen themes of self-discovery – growing up, dreaming big and falling in love for the first time.
The updated scenario rejects the festive family scenes used in the opening of the original ballet. Instead, plucky protagonist Clara is reimagined as a young girl who is incarcerated in a Dickensian orphanage. After a pitiful Christmas Eve party, she dreams of happier times.
Pull on your winter coat and follow Clara’s journey from Dr Dross’s gloomy orphanage, across a shimmering frozen pond and into the riotously colourful candy kingdom of Sweetieland.
Christmas at the London Coliseum means the return of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker, a festive favourite that is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Nutcracker has been at the heart of English National Ballet’s repertoire since the company was established in 1950. The current production, the company’s tenth, dates from 2010. Devised by the artistic director at the time, Wayne Eagling, with designs by Peter Farmer, this interpretation largely follows the traditional scenario but has a few unique flights of fancy mixed in too.
On Christmas Eve, young Clara and her brother Freddie enjoy a party with family and friends. Clara receives a Nutcracker doll as a present but, after a skirmish with jealous Freddie, the doll gets broken and has to be repaired by the mysterious Drosselmeyer. The party ends, the children are sent to bed and Clara has an action-packed dream in which her Nutcracker is attacked by an evil Mouse King. Departures from the traditional narrative in Eagling’s offering include the enchanting addition of a hot air balloon to whisk Clara and her Nutcracker away; horrifying giant mice invading scenes that are conventionally rodent-free; and a Puppet Theatre replacing the customary Kingdom of Sweets in Act Two.
English National Ballet’s talented dancers capture all the requisite wonder and magic of the Christmas staple. Having demonstrated in recent years that they are as adept in contemporary choreography from the likes of Akram Khan as they are in the classics, they assuredly keep this familiar ballet feeling fresh.
We might still be in November but Christmas is well and truly on its way now English National Ballet is delighting audiences with its dreamy Nutcracker.
Nothing gets me in the festive spirit quite like hearing the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. There are many different versions of this seasonal ballet but the magical music is timeless and immediately evokes feelings of anticipation, enjoyment, excitement, adventure and beauty. Superbly played by English National Ballet Philharmonic, the familiar compositions envelop audience members in a blissful ballet bubble from the overture through to the finale.
The company’s current Nutcracker, choreographed by Wayne Eagling, is wonderfully wintry and whimsical. On a frosty Christmas Eve in Edwardian London a family hosts a celebratory get-together. Among the guests is Drosselmeyer, a magician and maker of toys, and his handsome nephew. Young Clara is besotted with the nephew and eagerly dances with him before receiving a painted wooden nutcracker soldier from the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Thrilled with the gift, Clara happily dances with her new doll until a scuffle with her brother Freddie results in the nutcracker being damaged. Fortunately, Drosselmeyer works his magic to fix the wounded toy before the children are sent off to bed. What happens next is a fanciful adventure. Clara encounters an evil Mouse King, battles with the Nutcracker against an army of mice and travels to the Land of Snow. Later, she is entertained by dancers from all over the world, presented with a pretty posy of waltzing flowers and comes of age dancing with her very own prince.
English National Ballet First Artist Barry Drummond finds a few minutes to share his thoughts on dancing in Nutcracker and enjoying the magic of Christmas.
English National Ballet opens its acclaimed Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre this evening and First Artist Barry Drummond is looking forward to a busy run.
The festive family favourite boasts a sparkling seasonal story, captivating characters and delightful dancing. This ballet’s enduring popularity has seen the Company present a Nutcracker production every year since 1950, its founding year. Last Christmas, over 73,000 people made watching a performance of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum part of their holiday celebrations.
This year’s tour (beginning in Milton Keynes and then visiting Liverpool before a return to the Coliseum) continues the annual Nutcracker tradition while bringing choreographer Wayne Eagling’s version to audiences outside the capital.
First Artist Barry Drummond is already embracing the Yuletide season thanks to Nutcracker. As well as looking forward to being part of audience members’ Christmas celebrations, he is eager to make the most of his own festivities when the big day finally arrives!
“Nutcracker is a one-way ticket to festive cheer!”