Viewpoint 1: Charis Gambon
by Matthew Bourne Nutcracker! was my first visit to the theater to see a show based purely on theatrical dance. I really enjoyed the piece as it is incredibly unique and different. I thought the dance routines throughout the show were really spot on and was mesmerized by the sheer talent of each cast member. The dance style of the two acts couldn’t be different from each other, but I really enjoyed both acts and the styles. I couldn’t have chosen a better first piece to introduce myself to the world of ballet.
I thought the costume design for every aspect and character was really beautiful and outstanding. My favorite costumes were the vintage 1950s style dresses that featured in the second half of the show on the likes of Clara, Princess Sugar and dancer The All Sorts. I was so happy to watch the rustle of petticoats and dresses as the dancers performed elegant and thoughtful dance routines. If I had to choose my absolute favorite costume, I would definitely say the blue and white polka dot dress worn by Clara in the second act as I felt it was something I would wear myself.
the Nutcracker! Production is a great way to spend a few hours as it allows you to truly escape within the performance. I was incredibly surprised when the first act ended, and the curtain fell because I didn’t feel like it had been long enough! Even when the piece was fully finished, I found myself wishing there were a lot more!
The second act of the performance is really weird, but somehow it definitely works. I’ve really never seen a play like Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!. The ballet successfully demonstrates how adding your own twist to a classic can work. Bourne brings the classic 130-year-old play into the present century.
POV 2: Jess Rushton
Over the past few years, before the pandemic, I had the chance to see several ballets by Matthew Bourne and I also saw a more traditional version of Nutcracker, so it’s safe to say that my expectations for this production were high. And it by no means disappointed. From the set and costumes to the choreography and performance of the dancers themselves, everything came together perfectly to create a stunning production that I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit.
Bourne’s choreography and staging tell the story beautifully, something that can be difficult to convey through dance and music alone; I was engaged from the first music bar to the last. Tchaikovsky’s signature music carried the characters through the traditional story of Nutcracker, and Bourne added a modern and colorful twist. The story opens on Christmas Eve in an orphanage where Clara (Cordelia Braithwaite) receives a magnificent Nutcracker doll as a gift. That night, The Nutcracker (Harrison Dowzell) comes to life and helps all the children escape from the orphanage. The set then turns into “Sweetieland” where Clara discovers that her Nutcracker is preparing to marry Princess Sugar (Ashley Shaw). Clara attempts to break off the marriage, but she is unable to stop it. She wakes up at the orphanage to find the Nutcracker waiting for her and the two reunite before escaping through the window together.
The dancing seemed effortless, with each performer dancing with apparent ease. As a ballet dancer myself, I can only begin to appreciate the stamina, strength, and effort required to take such seemingly powerful and graceful steps. The entire company was amazing, but special praise must go to the Cupids (Enrique Ngbokta and Shoko Ito) who provided light comic relief as they attempted to reunite Clara and the Nutcracker throughout the second act. Their pairing was beautiful and their acting alongside dancing really set them apart in the company.
The show would also have been nothing without the incredible costumes, hair, and makeup throughout. Clearly inspired by Act Two’s Sweetieland setting, the creativity of the costume department is unmatched by almost any other performance I’ve ever seen. The dichotomy between Sweetieland in act two and the orphanage setting at the start was only made more apparent by the costume and it really added to the overall storytelling.
I would recommend this show to anyone even if you have never seen a dance performance before. With Bourne’s modern twist, the story doesn’t drag on at all, the dancing is traditional but very engaging, and the characterization of the entire cast was phenomenal. My only complaint is that it wasn’t long enough and almost felt like it was over before I started.
Did you like it? Learn more about Redbrick Culture here!
Critique of cocktails and ballets: the “last sip” of Romeo and Juliet
My first time: at the ballet
Review: Romeo and Juliet by Matthew Bourne