Review: Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, until Saturday

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FANTASTICAL, festive and even, at times, finger-licking good - Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is a feast for the eyes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Bourne ballet experience but it blew my socks off and then some.

Bourne, the controversial darling of modern ballet, takes the 120-year-old tale of a young girl who enters a dream world and gives it a Tim Burton-esque twist.

Gone is the traditional lavish Christmas party which kick starts the proceedings to be replaced by a Dickensian orphanage full of mischievous children who are ruled over by the odious Dross family. Its bleakness makes the leap into Clara’s dream world all the more fantastic.

Played to glorious effect by Hannah Vassallo, Clara is of course pursuing The Nutcracker, her Christmas toy who becomes a rather dashing dream man.

Bourne’s interpretation of this world is simply magical. The famous snowflake sequence is replaced by an enchanting ice skating extravaganza which turns the Theatre Royal stage into a living snow globe.

As you would expect from Bourne, the choreography is fresh and contemporary, never more so than in Sweetieland which is filled with dancing marshmallows, bump and grinding gobstoppers and scrumptious liquorice all sorts.

In this world, people are judged by their taste and tongues and finger-licking inform much of the dance moves. Bourne too injects sex into this most classic of ballets and there’s plenty of groping and bum-slapping sprinkled with more traditional balletic technique.

Kudos too must go to Anthony Ward for his set designs and costumes which are deliciously enchanting, especially the giant wedding cake which looked good enough to eat.

The frou-frou marshmallow girls in particular are a delight to watch and I secretly hankered after one of their pink fluffy costumes.

Saccharine, sassy and sexy - this show’s a must-see.