News, events and schools' information for families across Bristol

Ian Waller enjoys a faultless night of wonderful dance and storytelling

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is an absolute triumph! You can forget about Hogwarts, the real magic this week is taking place at The Bristol Hippodrome!

Take everything that you know about traditional ballet, add in bucket loads of imagination, colour, humour and fabulous storytelling, and you have some idea of what this wonderful production achieves. Of course, we all know the traditional story behind the classic Nutcracker ballet, set at Christmas in a fine house with a young daughter being presented with a toy nutcracker doll which comes to life and takes her on a magical adventure.

Fast forward to the wonderful mind and talent of Sir Matthew Bourne and the story is moved to Dr Dross’ Orphanage for Waifs and Strays with the children meeting their benefactors, dancing for their amusement and being rewarded with yuletide gifts. While the other children rush off with their footballs, kites and toy swords, Clara finds herself with a ventriloquist’s doll – think Slappy from the film Goosepumps but with less charm – which, overnight magically transforms itself into the children’s slightly-terrifying saviour.

Dr Dross’ Orphanage for Waifs and Strays (Photo: Johan Persson)

Following Clara’s escape we’re treated to an incredible visit to a frozen lake and the most mesmerising dancing skills of the whole troupe. And this is one of the great attractions of this production – the whole cast are in the spotlight, with performances taking place and mini-stories acted out across the stage; you could watch this show five times in a week and not spot all that happens.

A magical visit to the frozen lake (Photo: Johan Persson)

Katrina Lyndon at Clara is mesmorizing and delightful – full of childish joys and sadness, while also so excited at the discovery of her first love. Throughout, all of the dancers are just incredible. Again, the conventions are cast aside with a total lack of tutus, pink tights and even clackering dance shoes, all combining to give the experience a modern and fun feel.

The interval just came way too quickly – seriously, was that an hour already? – and we were soon following Clara on the road to Sweetieland. The problem is, entrance is by invitation only, with a giant humbug, complete with sunglasses, making sure that if you’re not on the list, you’re not getting in…

This is also the perfect chance for the national dances of the traditional productions to get a Bourne-esque shot in the arm. So the Spanish dance transforms into a fantastic display from dancing liquorice Allsorts Trio, the Russian dancers becomes the bullish The Knickerbocker Glory complete with leather jackets and helmets, the Chinese dancers go all pink and fluffy as The Marhsmallow Girls, and best of all the Arabian Dance is an hypnotic knickerbocker glory.

The Knickerbocker Glory at the door to Sweetieland (Photo: Johan Persson)

And of course, the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy remains, fitting perfectly within a stunning display of group and individual talents. Best of all though, the dancers really look like they’re loving it – these are the most relaxed looking examples of exemplary skill that you’re likely to see, the result being that the stiffness of traditional ballet just dissolves and you wonder how you’ll ever return to it.

Yes, I loved it, as did my wife and everyone else around us, with the standing ovation was fully deserved. Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker is faultless, an absolute theatrical treat and yes, you need to buy a ticket. You’ll love it!

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until 5 February 2022. For tickets and more information, click here.