The New Vic Theatre has once again woven its enchanting touch into the fabric of Christmas with its latest festive show, The Nutcracker: A Christmas Fairytale. Whether you’re already well and truly in the yuletide spirit, or need a little something to get you there, then this show will undoubtedly have you feeling warm, merry and bright.
Adapted and directed by the talented Theresa Heskins, audiences looking for some festive cheer are transported into a world of spun-sugar snowflakes, gingerbread troops and lemonade lakes, bringing to life the timeless magic of the holiday season in the most wonderful way.
The production embraces a fresh and ambitious take that blends elements of E.T.A Hoffman’s original story, Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation, and Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet to take generations of families on an epic adventure to the Kingdom of Sweets with Marie and the Nutcracker to settle a score with the ferocious Mouse Queen.
Set in the living room of a family home to the sound of the visual musicians, we meet middle child Marie and her younger war-obsessed brother Fritz, along with their mother. The family appear to have fled a war-torn homeland and have settled in the west, growing accustomed to our curious Christmas traditions, like decorating trees indoors. Meanwhile, their father is away negotiating the conflict, while eldest sister Sacha has lost her life.
Their Uncle Drosselmeyer (Peter Watts) tells the children the story of the Sugar Plum Fairy and The Nutcracker, and how they live in constant threat of the evil Mouse Queen. And as the clock strikes midnight, Marie finds herself in a land where toys come to life and she must climb the Christmas tree in a bid to save the Sugar Plum Fairy and end the long feud between the Mouse Queen and the inhabitants of the Kingdom.
Marie – portrayed by Franky Attard – and Abigail Middleton’s Fritz do a wonderful job of epitomising the innocence of children around Christmas time, and all the magic that comes with it. They’re mesmerised by their Uncle, who enchants and delights with magic tricks and magnificent storytelling, from his Mary Poppins-style bag, to a levitating Christmas tree and candles that light at the click of a finger. Peter brings an air of Jack Whitehall to his role, adding a comedic flair to the narrative, particularly as the boat taxi driver across the lemonade lake.
The entire show is a visual festive feast. The scene where teddy bears, gingerbread men and dolls come to life is absolutely spectacular, and it’s nice to see some familiar costumes too, with the ragdoll wearing the Coppelia dress from Christmas 2021. The ensemble executes Beverley Norris-Edmunds’s choreography beautifully and it’s amazing to see some of the traditional ballet elements incorporated into the show, making it feel familiar, yet with a completely fresh approach.
As Kaitlin Howard’s Mouserink the Mouse Queen interrupted the trance-like scene, a convincing fight-scene ensued, in which Nutcracker Edwin Cheng impressed with his mechanical movements and bravery before the villain fled in pursuit of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker becomes an entirely immersive experience as the auditorium transforms into the Christmas tree, each audience member feeling as though they are too perched on the branches like a bauble or gilded walnut. At the Kingdom of Sweets, the residents burst into a vibrant dance number akin to watching a box of Quality Street on Strictly Come Dancing, followed by a Benny Hill-style chase that leaves audiences giggling away.
Enchanting would be an understatement to describe The Nutcracker: A Christmas Fairytale. Jam-packed with beautiful music, myths and magic, this production has been brought to life in the New Vic’s sensational style that makes each of their festive shows unforgettable and heartwarming experiences for every member of the family, be them young or young at heart.
The narrative weaves together themes of family, love and loss and even war, and really brings the true meaning of Christmas to the forefront of the season. Under the musical direction of James Atherton, the talented cast captivates imaginations with wonderful wow-moments, allowing people to experience the famous fairytale in a new light.
Don’t miss the chance to watch the heartwarming rendition of The Nutcracker: A Christmas Fairytale at the New Vic Theatre from Friday, November 17, 2023 to Saturday, January 27, 2024.