“Come and see the Nutcracker, so brave and strong and noble.”
Following successful adaptations of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Beauty and the Beast and Hansel and Gretel, Paperfinch Theatre return to their Sheffield home this Christmas season, with an immersive musical show to delight adults and children alike.
Building on their already well-showcased gifts for storytelling and musical arrangement, director and writer Joe Bunce, and composers Matthew Malone and Dom Hartley, have created a truly impressive retelling of ETA Hoffman’s original Christmas story.
Entering the Dreamworld
Updated for the 21st century, and set in the beautifully designed galleries of Bank Street Arts, the cast of The Nutcracker welcome their audience into an extravagant Christmas party held in a variety of rooms we are free to explore.
The immersive nature of the show allows for a truly entertaining beginning, in which we are offered mince pies by a butler, glitter from the extravagant sisters Pippa and Prudence Silvertree, and stuffed animals, paper and pens by the troubled and mute Billy Silvertree.
But the real fun begins with the entrance of the fantastical Uncle Roy, played with exceptional comedic timing and touching finesse, by University of Sheffield graduate Richard Agar.
A Delightful Retelling
Paperfinch specialise in whimsical storytelling, live music and puppetry, and this production has all of these things in wonderfully well-wrapped bundles. As we enter Billy’s dreams and come face-to-face with the devilish Mausikins – the incarnations of his cruel and domineering family members – we are not only transported into this fantastical world, but we become a part of it.
With the absurd and erratic Sugarplum as our guide – brought to life with outstanding vigour and laudable hilarity by Will Taylor – we must don a variety of ludicrous clothes in an attempt to become bona fide figments of Billy’s imagination.
The strength of the performers and the company as a whole, mean that none of this feels uncomfortable. To the accompaniment of the live band and original musical numbers, adults and children alike are swept along in our hunt for the missing pieces of The Nutcracker, and the quest to defeat the malevolent micey marauders.
From crafting playdough into recognisable objects to remind the Tree of Knowledge of the things he has forgotten; to hunting for a sleepy tiger’s lost thought bubbles; to interacting with a dancing robot – every facet of this production is fanciful and thoroughly enjoyable.
The cast as a whole deliver exceptional and engaging performances, but special mention should be given to Perry Hughes – who seamlessly morphs from upper-class curmudgeon to mousey interloper – Richard Agar as the positively joyful Uncle Roy, and Miriam Schechter, who plays the troubled Billy with touching sincerity and warmth.
The ensemble cast, as well, manage to deliver high-energy and entertaining performances throughout. For sheer enjoyment, however, particular credit should go to Rob O’Connor as an endearingly meek and charming squirrel called Chip; Mark Mehta as an hilariously somnolent tiger; and Matilda Reith as an inexplicably but brilliantly funny Australian sheep.
A Christmas Treat
It may be the season for pantomimes, but with this polished production Paperfinch Theatre have proved that children’s shows needn’t be simplistic. The Nutcracker is a feat of innovation, novelty, and talent, all wrapped up in a wonderfully bedecked gallery space that will enchant everyone who enters.
I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again, but Paperfinch Theatre are a remarkable, exciting and wildly creative company, who produce outstanding and inventive theatre time and time again.
If you’re searching for an exuberant and magical evening this Christmas season, then Bank Street Arts’ new dreamworld is the first place you should look.
NB: The Nutcracker runs from 16th – 20th December at Bank Street Arts, Sheffield. Tickets can be purchased here: http://paperfinch.co.uk/tickets/