Nutcracker! Norwich

Don't, for goodness sake, go and imagine that this is a ballet. Matthew Bourne, surely Britain's most inventive choreographer, takes this Tchaikovsky classic by the scruff of the neck – and gives it a great, big sloppy kiss.

Don't, for goodness sake, go and imagine that this is a ballet. Matthew Bourne, surely Britain's most inventive choreographer, takes this Tchaikovsky classic by the scruff of the neck – and gives it a great, big sloppy kiss.

With his new company, New Adventures, Bourne takes the surreal, fairytale element of this great work and uses it to the full. It's a fun, almost cheesy, show with everything acted out in high drama and for the most amount of laughs.

But ballet it isn't – and Bourne is the first to admit this.

He isn't a classical dancer and his work is best described as modern dance as there are certainly no pointes or tutus!

He's used the score as his inspiration and created his own version of the plot to suit.

It opens in a bleak Dickensian-style orphanage where young Clara (Etta Murfitt) is an unhappy inhabitant.

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With the help of an unlikely toy and her vivid imagination, she escapes into a fantasy world, Sweetieland, where she chases her heart's desire – a handsome boy in white (Adam Galbraith).

Sure, Bourne – who brought us the incredibly moving male version of Swan Lake with his old company, Adventures in Motion Pictures – retains many of those much-loved sequences, but adds wonderful new characters such as the Marsh Mallow Girls and the Humbug Bouncer, all gloriously camp.

He was determined to make an accessible family show which appealed to men as much as to women but it could be too comic-book for some tastes.

Indeed, the final scenes move towards near-slapstick with frantic over-acting all round.

On a local note, Norwich teenager Aaron Sillis, in his first professional role, easily matches any of the more experienced members of the cast and his performance as one of the two Liquorice Men, all puffed up Latin male ego, is a delight.

t Nutcracker! continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until April 5. Box office: 01603 630000.

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