Chris Eldon Lee reviews “The Nutcracker”, which is at Theatre Clwyd until Saturday 31st December
I rather liked my Sugar Plum Fairy…despite the unprepossessing skinhead hair cut and big black bovver boots. There is an off-hand vitality about him. He oozed enthusiasm and excitement. He was on a quest…and we simply had to help him.
The quest in question is also slightly unprepossessing. Two nasty twin sisters have dismembered their little brother Billy’s toy Nutcracker Doll and – like a medieval king – have cast its limbs to the four corners of the realm. Billy is distraught and has run away. So, we’ve all got to find him and his dismembered toy. It’s the perfect job for Theatr Clwyd’s youngest audience.
Joe Bunce’s adaptation of Hoffman’s century-old fairy tale is far removed from the ballet but still leads us on a merry dance. We are all invited to the Silvertree family Christmas party which is precisely the kind of party I would not wish to be seen dead at; more Criminal than Crimbo.
Gently guided round the backstage corridors of Theatre Clwyd, we meet the various members of Billy’s eccentric family. Top of the tipsy twits is Francine Silvertree – played with smothering smarminess by a superb Victoria Pugh – who calls everybody ‘sweetie’ is still reliving her ice skating medal-winning moment at the 1992 Albertville Olympics.
Billy’s cardsharp father (Rob Maloney) is not to be meddled with. His boorish belligerence bullies Billy to ‘grow up’ long before his time. “You’re a man now Billy” is what any 8-year-old doesn’t wants to hear.
Needless to say, one member of the socially climbing family has made themselves Mayor of Mold; only distinguishable from the real Mayor by the latter’s visitor’s lanyard.
And then there’s Billy himself (Sophie Coward) who lives in a cosy child- friendly room and communicates only by crayon. It’s an instantly likable portrayal of a boy verging on autism, who is too fearful to be himself.
The party part of the evening goes on far too long (unless my attention span is shorter than a kiddie’s) but once we become figments of Billy’s imagination, the evening swings along. Gentle Uncle Roy (Josh Sneesby) lullabies us on our way and, in a scene reminiscent of the finding of Portly at the feet of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn (in Wind in the Willows), we discover disconsolate Billy and swear to find his doll.
Our own colour coded lanyards divide us into teams. Josh Finan’s Fairy led my little group into the lair of a librarian spider for whom we completed stories. We help a wild west prospector pan for gold and ply a sparking spirit with golden light. And at each encounter we collect a part of the doll. The other groups, meeting other characters, are clearly doing the same until the moment of assembly arrives, (once we’ve hoodwinked a particularly grumpy security penguin, that is).
It’s very much an immersive and imaginative experience and I’m sure it’ll be a big hit, especially with children striving to reach double figures. The message is clear and simple. Be true to yourself, and all will be well. And then we can go ice skating at Theatr Clwyd’s pop up Christmas funfair.
Visit www.theatrclwyd.com for bookings & information about Theatr Clwyd. Extra tickets have just been released…