Over the holidays I took Offsprog One and Offsprog Two to see Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker at Sadler's Wells.
Even the venue is perfect for a Christmas break, because it is not too large or posh and the three of us were in various stages of glamitude depending on how frequently or rarely we have a nightlife. Every year we go to the ballet and every year we say 'We must go to the theatre and ballet more often', and every year we don't, so our garb tends to be rather motley.
Last year's production (Cinderella) had recorded music which was a bit disappointing, but there was an orchestra this time (or at least a man with a bald head conducting, which could of course have been pretend).
I have seen Bourne's version of The Nutcracker twice, and the first time I enjoyed the second half best; this time, it was the first half that I liked best: the land of black, white and grey that showed off the dancers' personalities to such good effect. Bourne's company are as light as feathers on their feet and as supple as fresh blades of grass; they fold up, unfold, blow about, and whisk here and there as though they have magic in their veins instead of blood. Their feet land with a whisper and they float past each other as though their bodies weigh precisely nothing, although they must because they have real muscles and look like real people instead of pale spindly (but beautiful) giraffes in the way that classical ballet dancers do. (no spots, of course. Nor horns. Or manes. Not a good comparison at all, really).
They have expressions too: nearly all have big features and they act with their faces and acknowledge the audience, which is something that classical dancers never do, so we were in on the act from the beginning.
I lusted after one of the grey smocks that the girls in the orphanage wore (so stylish!), and I could have leapt up and joined in the dancing at any point; I'm sure I could have managed somehow even though I am a lapsed yoga-ist and dance in a surprisingly elephantine manner for one so formerly slim.
'Our Father', they mimed with big wide mouths as they said their prayers, knelt at the side of their beds. Matron was terrifying and pointy, goose-stepping around the stage in a striped shirt and severe skirt that must have been a nightmare to dance in.
The main male lead looked surprisingly like Will Young, who I believe was at one time Matthew Bourne's partner. Bless! He was a fab dancer, and this being a Bourne ballet we saw a lot of his bare chest. He partnered both Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy with aplomb (ha ha).
The sweeties in the second half were just as good as the last time I saw this ballet, all vibrant colours and nightclub personalities, and when the whole thing was finished I wanted it to begin again because it was so nice to be somewhere away from the bustle of Christmas, visiting a colourful and energetic version of dreamland for an evening.
It wasn't till I got home and spotted the birthday present the Offsprogs had given me, a big wooden nutcracker in the shape of a very red and pink General with a white fluffy beard and big gnashers that I realised that there hadn't been a nutcracker in the ballet at all. Amazing.