This was my first time at Hampstead’s smallest theatre. Pentameters is a tiny space with about 50 seats, accessed from some narrow stairs behind The Horseshoe pub on Heath Street. The stage is surprisingly big and, for this adaptation of The Nutcracker, creatively adorned.
Purists expecting a faithful rendition of Tchaikovsky’s ballet are in for a shock. Theatre company Butterfly Wheels has developed a slightly sinister adaptation of the classic story in which a child’s Christmas reality and fantasy collide. Unfortunately, the execution does not live up to the creative ambition.
Aside from the instantly recognisable Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (who is portrayed as some gilded homage to the Maschinenmensch in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis), the music veers to the contemporary. At times this lends the whole production the feel of a German high school’s attempt at rock opera. And not entirely in a good way.
The story itself is told in a rather staccato fashion, and at times the libretto feels as wooden as the Nutcracker himself although there are some nice multimedia elements. The only male actor in the production, Tim C J Chew, is quite good as the Prince and the dolls that come to life are entertaining in a pantomime sort of way but one leaves the theatre feeling more bewildered than enchanted.
At £12 for adults (£10 concessions, £5 for under 5s, but seriously don’t take your under-5) it’s quite expensive, especially when you consider that for £15 you can see the outstanding Midsummer at the Tricycle. However, if you’re flush with cash this Christmas holiday season and like a healthy dash of alternative with your festivities then maybe wend your way up to Pentameters for something a little different. Take your 9-year-old – they’ll probably love it.