Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! @ Kings Theatre
I do not think that when Dr Freud wrote On Narcissism, he ever identified 'lollipop envy.' This is one facet of director/choreographer Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! which makes it a triumph – his trademark innuendo. Sometimes a lollipop is not a lollipop…
Now celebrating its 20th year and 150th performance, Nutcracker! contains all the elements we have come to expect: the seamless blending of populist dance with subversion; über-camp, intelligence and above all, a cohesive young company fusing ballet with jigs; vaudeville, breakdancing and burlesque (and that’s just the boys).
The action unfolds before Christmas in Dr Dross’s orphanage – Dross (Daniel Wright) a Stasi-esque sadist complete with riding crop and his equally terrifying wife Matron (Etta Murfitt) rule over the children with an iron fist.
Rebellion ensues and when the children tire of the bullying of heroine Clara (a gamine but sassy Hannah Vassallo) they exact their revenge using giant cat’s cradles. Now free, can Clara make the transition into womanhood and win her Nutcracker (Edwin Ray) who has transformed from doll into man?
Even the peripheral characters are fascinating; my favourite is the oddly sensual Knickerbocker Glory (Tom Jackson Greaves) – whose intentions towards Clara are anything but vanilla. Anthony Ward’s set pieces are just jaw-dropping, each scene more audacious than the last and pop culture permeates throughout – the Voguing Marshmallow Girls are a Barbie/Gaga hybrid; the entrance to Sweetieland meanwhile is a massive hot-pink Mick Jagger mouth, presided over by a bouncer.
If all of this sounds like a hallucinatory nightmare caused by eating too much sugar – it is, but never too saccharine for adults, nor unpalatable for families: a spectacular feast for the senses. Suck it and see.