Review: Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

by Martin Brisland.

Matthew Bourne’s fabulous Nutcracker! returns to the Mayflower Theatre for the first time in nine years and it is not to be missed. It is Bourne at his best: clever, charming, colourful, sexy, full of energy and so much fun! Only Bourne could grab a revered classic by the scruff of the neck and turn it into something totally new, yet instantly recognisable. It’s the perfect introduction for those who are not familiar with ballet.

Tchaikovsky’s glorious score with so many well-known tunes, Anthony Ward’s delectable sets, stunning costumes and the amazing lighting all combine with Bourne’s dazzling choreography to create a fresh interpretation of this classic tale.

Recipient of the 2019 Special Olivier Award, Sir Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures company have produced some of the most successful dance productions of recent times. More than half the dancers in Nutcracker! have progressed through the New Adventures talent development programmes.

As his Nutcracker! celebrates its 30th birthday, Matthew Bourne, says: “I’m convinced that the main reason The Nutcracker has retained its perennial appeal is because of Tchaikovsky’s incredible score. Our version tells a simple story – it’s a wish fulfilment story, a story with a heroine (Clara) who has a lot to overcome and who eventually wins through. It’s about growing up and first love and these are things everyone can relate to.“

Nutcracker! follows Clara’s bittersweet journey, from a dark Christmas Eve at Dr. Dross’ Dickensian Orphanage through a shimmering, ice-skating winter wonderland to the scrumptious, technicolour candy kingdom of Sweetieland then back to the Orphanage.

A Christmas party is grudgingly thrown by the sinister director Dr Dross and his unpleasant wife for the benefit of the visiting governors. A sad Christmas tree is hurriedly put up. The 16 orphans are dressed in plain grey smocks and ordered to wear paper crowns and act happy and grateful.

They dance boisterously, for they are spirited children, none more so than Clara, forever finding small ways to upset the tyranny they live under.

From a box of old toys given by the governors Clara takes an ungainly doll. At the stroke of midnight, though, this mock nutcracker turns into a handsome young man before Clara’s besotted eyes. As the orphanage walls slide away to reveal a magical winter landscape, the young couple find themselves on a Frozen Lake with ice-skaters. Unfortunately for Clara, among them is the alluring Princess Sugar, who catches the Nutcracker’s eye and steals Clara’s man.

The earlier characters appear in Clara’s fantasy reincarnated as sweets: a gaggle of marshmallow girls, some flamenco-dancing Liquorice Allsorts and the laddish Gobstoppers.

Bourne reinvents the Arabian dance for the slinky and seductive Knickerbocker Glory in a smoking jacket and whipped cream hairdo with cherry on top.

After the final pas de deux between Princess Sugar and the Nutcracker the magic fades away and Clara wakes up in the orphanage again but oh what a fantastical journey!

Tickets for Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker (30 March – 3 April 2022) are on sale at or 02380 711811.

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