It’s that time of year: we’ve been to review one version of The Nutcracker already, Drew McOnie’s excellent modern jazz interpretation at the Tuff Nutt Jazz Club. Over the weekend we took a trip to Battersea to check out a completely different rendition at The Turbine Theatre – billed as ‘a very adult pantomime’, it’s a contemporary (and rather filthy) retelling with a light dusting of social commentary. Expect references to Just Stop Oil protests and those sleeping on the streets as pursuing a “lifestyle choice”.
It follows the story of Carly (Holly Ashman) who’s had a pretty awful year – her dad died, following which her family started falling apart, and then her ex ghosted her. However, a surprise present from her uncomfortably inappropriate drunk uncle has the potential to turn things around – perhaps Christmas can be salvaged after all?
There’s a lot of music in this show – which is of course to be expected, although the score might not be quite what you’re used to. Yes, there’s a take on Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ but there are also numerous pastiches of festive favourites and songs from musicals. Mostly these are solo moments but there are a handful of group numbers with some simple but silly choreography which lands effectively.
Like many productions we’ve seen at The Turbine, this show is put on by a small team with a minimal budget – don’t expect anything too lavish here, but they’ve done a decent job within the constraints of the venue and the budget. The cast – which includes writer Joshua Coley – work extremely hard throughout, with many taking on multiple roles, switching into deliberately naff and unconvincing costume choices to denote different characters, often with entertaining results.
So… is it worth seeing? We don’t feel it’s the best version of The Nutcracker on right now, and it’s certainly quite a break from tradition, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. Whether you enjoy it depends on your sense of humour – this is a filthy take on the festive show, full of expletives and innuendo. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s pretty good fun nonetheless – perhaps not for all the family, however.
GAY TIMES gives The Nutcracker – 3/5
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