Top critical review
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dolly mixture ...
on 13 April 2014
Having loved Swan Lake and The Car Man, I found this Matthew Bourne production - the first of them - a bit less good. As someone else has pointed out, the scenes at the orphanage are all in shades of grey, with quite a lot of black, and given that this lasts about 35 minutes, it feels too grimy for a children's ballet, too depressing both visually and in its touch of Dickensian social realism - and for adults too. The acting is very good, but the dancing seems less developed - more secondary - than in the other Bourne ballets. He excels at storytelling, but this too feels stalled in the first act, and because there is no summary anywhere to be found, it is difficult to know what is going on from what we see (thank goodness for C. O. DeRiemer's review on this page). I also thought the costumes were less good than in other productions, either being unflattering in Act 1 or too pink and garish in Act 2. I have to admit that I have always hated Liquorice Allsorts, though, so I can't claim to be very objective!
On the plus side, the dancers in all the main parts are very charming, and some of the colourful scenes near the end, particularly those done in front of a giant wedding cake, are superb. Clara is very expressive, and the Nutcracker does look splendid in his shirtless costume. The three gobstoppers are also appealing, and there are many humorous touches. However I don't think it shows Bourne at his best, and the look of his ballets was enhanced when he started working with Lez Brotherston as his costume and set designer.