Photo: Mark Senior

It may only be early November but, having visited new pop-up venue the Tuff Nutt Jazz Club over the weekend to check out this contemporary Nutcracker, we’re feeling very much in the Christmas spirit already. A bespoke, intimate venue within the Southbank Centre, this cosy space is the perfect setting for this new show which proves to be a festive delight. Directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie and with Tchaikovsky’s score re-imagined by jazz composer Cassie Kinoshi, this is a cunningly condensed one-hour wonder.

It is very much an interpretation of the original – the music is performed live by a jazz quartet, who gleefully play around with arrangements and time signatures, but all of the ballet’s key melodic themes are present and correct. The story, again, is an interpretation, although we’re very much in the realm of a Christmastime dream sequence. Our hero is Clive (Mark Samaras) who seems more interested in the fairy from the Christmas tree than the Action Man figure his disapproving father (Tim Hodges) has gifted him. In the night, both figurines come to life, with Patricia Zhou as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Amonik Melaco as Action Man.

It’s a show that genuinely looks and sounds rather wonderful. The costumes and props are popping with vibrant colours and there are sparkles galore; for an extra festive feeling there’s plenty of fake snow (if you’re in the front row you might want to cover your drinks). It’s an intimate space which at times feels almost a little too small for the scale of the dance production that’s being staged, but the performers make the most of every inch available, projecting upwards and outwards at every opportunity. The proximity of the dancers to the audience affords this production a real immediacy – the energy in the space is magnetic.

We thoroughly enjoyed this re-imagination of Nutcracker – it’s certainly not a traditional production, so it might not be one for purists, but it’s an absolute joy. This one-act show breezes by in scarcely an hour, which feels all too brief, but what a wonderful hour we were able to enjoy – if you’re looking for a little festive treat this would be well worth your consideration.

GAY TIMES gives Nutcracker – 4/5

More information can be found here.