Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! – New Adventures – review
Sadler’s Wells, London
The Observer, Sunday 18 December 2011
Daisy May Kemp (Queen Candy), Dominic North (Prince Bon-Bon) and Daniel Wright (King Sherbet) in Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! Photograph: Tristram Kenton
The Nutcracker was choreographed by Lev Ivanov in 1892 for the Imperial Russian Ballet, with a score by Tchaikovsky. The piece was not well received; the story of an adolescent girl transported from a Christmas party into a dreamworld, the Kingdom of the Sweets, was thought unreasonably bizarre, and the ballet childish and tasteless. If this can now be viewed as a wrong-headed judgment, especially in the light of Tchaikovsky’s exquisite score and Ivanov’s enchanting set pieces, it’s certainly true that the work in its traditional form is structurally flawed. The basic problem is that Act 1 is all story, and Act 2 all dance. We start off identifying with Clara, the teenage heroine (she’s called Masha in Russia), only to see her reduced to the status of a spectator for the second half of the ballet.