LAST NIGHT'S REVIEW: The Nutcracker, Nuffield Theatre

Daily Echo: A scene from The Nutcracker. Picture by www.richardbudd.co.uk A scene from The Nutcracker. Picture by www.richardbudd.co.uk

WHEN it comes to festive fun, the Germans have it all wrapped up.

Their Christmas markets are the envy of the world and we’ve embraced their gingerbread and Gluhwein with glee.

Nuffield’s The Nutcracker is no different – a delight from start to finish.

There’s lederhosen and alpine chalets on stage and bratwurst in the lobby.

But don’t expect the usual festive fare of fun and frolics. This returns to the real traditions of German fairytale, a version more similar to ETA Hoffman’s dark original rather than a sugar-coated plot.

Think a sevenheaded mouse, sword-wielding toys, curses and a particularly nasty decapitation.

The sinister music towards the interval perfectly depicts the mood of the piece.

A young girl dreams of a Nutcracker prince and a fierce battle between evil mice and cuddly monkeys.

Good does eventually overcome evil and adults and children alike – including dozens of Brownies in the audience – were spellbound during last night’s first night proper.

The Battle of the Toys in particular was an absolute triumph, with wonderfully costumed dolls, toys and soldiers filling the whole auditorium and involving the audience in the grenade throwing.

The show, the first for new Nuffield director Sam Hodges, is beautifully staged with a clever ski chalet set quickly changing to a Kingdom of Sweets and a royal nursery.

The talented Blanche McIntyre directs a superb cast of eight, plus pianist, with plenty of clever touches. I particularly enjoyed the quick changes on stage, the delightful dance moves, the tantrums and the mad scientists who walked the room and entertained youngsters ahead of curtain up.

The modern day family dynamic of bickering step-siblings was also an interesting touch.

It’s a real cracker of a tale with magic at every turn. As they say in Germany, wunderbar!

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