Seen at the Bristol Old Vic.
The Nutcracker but not as you know it. There is not a sugarplum fairy in sight in this fabulous festive treat at Bristol Old Vic. In fact, it could not be further from the saccharine ballet that is eponymous with the season. The combined talents of Tom Morris (writer), Lee Lyford (director) and Gwyneth Herbert (composer, lyricist and musical director) draw the audience into a mysterious, provocative and highly entertaining story. Taking a journey of discovery, more akin to the darker side of Hoffman’s original fairy tale but packed with wit, music and magic.
It's Christmas Eve and Claire (Mae Munro) and her family have just moved house. While Claire worries about her misplaced unicorn ‘Charlie’, seeking help from anyone who will listen, the rest of the family are pre-occupied. Stressed Mum (Patrycja Kujawska) is still working, Dad (Kirris Riviere) is excited about a new business idea and brother Eddie (Guy Hughes) is playing on his phone and has outgrown Claire’s childish obsession with imaginary friends.
It's a family urgently in need of a wakeup call.
And bang on cue arrives the mysterious clockmaker Mr Choke (Tristan Sturrock) with gifts for the whole family including a nutcracker doll for Claire. Set upon the Christmas tree as the family head off to bed the nutcracker calls out for help and the adventure begins!
In a fantasy kingdom where toys come to life, the King loves sausages, and mice sing (Gwyneth Herbert excels as Queen Mouse) the story unfolds against a clever narrative and set; cogs, clockfaces and wheels demonstrate that whilst time doesn’t stop it’s easily manipulated in this dreamscape.
While this is far from a traditional Christmas show – it has all the essential ingredients. Talking to a few younger members of the audience it was clear that, while for adults some of the storytelling doesn’t make sense, it really didn’t matter. There was sparkle, comedy, songs and it captured imaginations.
And that, after all, is the magic of theatre at any time of the year.