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1 NUTCRACKER! THEATRE ROYAL, GLAS­GOW, FROM TUES­DAY, 7.30PM; MATI­NEE THURS­DAY, 2.30PM

If you be­lieve that the Nutcracker is a Christ­mas treat, add the name of Matthew Bourne – the man who made the lake’s swans all-male – to the ti­tle and you’ll find it can be a sweet treat for all sea­sons.

Bourne is a mas­ter of clear, vivid sto­ry­telling, so there’s no need to keep flick­ing from stage to pro­gramme page to keep up with the ac­tion here. From the mo­ment the cur­tain rises on a grim Dick­en­sian or­phan­age, where even a bro­ken toy is a wel­come sur­prise for the res­i­dent waifs, you’re hooked into a nar­ra­tive that takes the familiar bal­let plot-line (such as it is) in a thrillingly fresh di­rec­tion. There’s more than a whiff of old Hol­ly­wood movies in Bourne’s treat­ment: poor girl meets dream boy; boy is snaf­fled by con­niv­ing rich bitch, leav­ing poor girl close to heart­break; sur­prise hap­pyend­ing twist sends ev­ery­one home on a cloud of pink can­dyfloss.

Tchaikovsky’s score de­liv­ers candy kisses to the ears. The cos­tumes of the char­ac­ters in Sweet­ieland are a mouth­wa­ter­ing feast of witty in­ven­tion, and the chore­og­ra­phy it­self dances mer­rily from a swishy skaters’ waltz to a spec­tac­u­lar wed­ding-cake num­ber that pays an af­fec­tion­ate trib­ute to that mas­ter-con­fec­tioner of Hol­ly­wood mu­si­cal ex­trav­a­ganza, Busby Berke­ley. This isn’t just any Nutcracker, it’s Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! Buy a ticket and taste the dif­fer­ence.

2 GE­ORGE WYL­LIE MACLAU­RIN GAL­LERIES, ROZELLE PARK, AYR, FROM TO­DAY, 10AM TO 5PM

He’s the na­tion’s finest vis­ual lat­eral thinker – and still un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated for that. Gourock’s self-styled “scul?tor” is a man who takes com­plex ideas and trans­lates them into easy-to-ap­pre­ci­ate, pop­u­lar art. Put him in any con­text – a boat on the Clyde, the Mi­lan tri­en­nale, CRM’s Hill House in He­lens­burgh, the cor­po­rate col­lec­tions of Scot­land’s top com­pa­nies – and Ge­orge Wyl­lie’s work has some­thing to say. A man who came to mak­ing art later in life, it is none­the­less now 40 years since he had his first ex­hi­bi­tion at the Har­bour Arts Cen­tre in Irvine. This new show, in the same neck of the woods and at a venue that has played host to the Wyl­lie oeu­vre be­fore, presents a se­lec­tion of works from his own col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing some of his pop­u­lar spire sculp­tures and those ever-present birds of dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes.

That’s not all: the in­spi­ra­tions for the show also in­clude the fic­tional fig­ure of Para Handy, the Clyde puffer skip­per, and Tom Mix, the much-mar­ried cow­boy ac­tor of the sil­ver screen whose sem­i­nal per­sona in­flu­enced the young John Wayne and fu­ture pres­i­dent of the United States Ron­ald Rea­gan. That is close, in­ter­est­ingly, to the theme be­ing ex­plored by a younger gen­er­a­tion at a new show at Ed­in­burgh’s Fruit­mar­ket (see Sarah Ur­win Jones on Page 6). Closer at hand, Wyl­lie also ac­knowl­edges the in­flu­ence of Robert Burns, whose cot­tage is just down the road. “I am not a Burns scholar,” he says, “but the sim­ple elo­quence of his work has per­me­ated and co­in­cides with my own at­ti­tudes.”

3 A SCOTS HELI­CON MITCHELL LI­BRARY, GLAS­GOW,DUR­ING AYE WRITE! UN­TIL MARCH 22

The ti­tle refers to the moun­tain home of the nine muses of an­cient Greek mythol­ogy, but this nonet are Scots writ­ers, cap­tured in draw­ing and paint in an ex­hi­bi­tion by artist Anna Caro. Dilys Rose, the poet of the party, has con­trib­uted an in­tro­duc­tion to the pocket-sized cat­a­logue for the show in which she ob­serves: “In th­ese por­traits there’s as much com­mit­ment to con­vey the in­ner life of the sub­jects as to cap­ture any ex­ter­nal like­ness. Has she stolen our souls? I don’t think so. I’m more in­clined to think, in cap­tur­ing our like­nesses, she has given us some part of her­self.”

In ad­di­tion to Rose, the lit­er­ary moun­tain dwellers are crime writ­ers Louise Welsh, Val McDermid and Denise Mina; chil­dren’s au­thors Joan Lin­gard and He­len Dun­woodie; and grown-up writ­ers AL Kennedy, Kate Atkin­son and Mar­garet El­phin­stone. Caro, who trained at Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art and has ex­hib­ited in Eng­land and the US as well as lo­cally, was moved to un­der­take the project when she no­ticed how few women writ­ers were in the col­lec­tion of the Scot­tish Na­tional Por­trait Gallery – al­though it might be pointed out that the cur­rent crop of women writ­ers is cer­tainly with­out

prece­dent in Scot­land’s lit­er­ary his­tory. Good to see Aye Write! hav­ing a vis­ual el­e­ment, how­ever, when the Mitchell has re­cently taken on a new role as a gallery space.

4 JU­DITH BOW­ERS ON THE BRI­TAN­NIA PANOP­TI­CON AYE WRITE! MITCHELL LI­BRARY, GLAS­GOW, THURS­DAY 7.30PM

When peo­ple first be­gan to talk about Glas­gow’s old mu­sic hall, pre­served if di­lap­i­dated above an amuse­ment ar­cade and a cloth­ing ware­house on Ar­gyle Street, it was usu­ally through the pros­e­lytis­ing of a young wo­man called Ju­dith. At that time a read­ily iden­ti­fi­able mem­ber of the tribe known as goths, and black of cloth­ing, hair and heavy eye make-up, her un­con­ven­tional ap­pear­ance (at least in civic her­itage and arts his­tory cir­cles), as well as her huge en­thu­si­asm for the venue were equally cru­cial in mak­ing peo­ple take its fu­ture se­ri­ously. There was some­thing en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate about the fact that the restora­tion of a venue that once boasted freak shows, bur­lesque and wax­works was be­ing cham­pi­oned by some­one who had grown up a mem­ber of the most the­atri­cally in­spired of teen clans.

Ms Bow­ers has now shaken off that look, even if it is still an in­te­gral part of the venue, which has seen per­for­mances by the High Tease bur­lesque troupe and Minty Don­ald’s pianola-driven Glim­mers in Limbo in­stal­la­tion (phase two of which is now go­ing down an­other com­pelling track al­to­gether at Tramway). She is no less the­atri­cal, though, and her ses­sion here prom­ises to in­clude her own ver­sions of clas­sic tunes last seen when Leonard Sachs ex­trav­a­gantly in­tro­duced The Good Old Days on television. The ex­cuse for her ap­pear­ance at a book fes­ti­val, how­ever, is the ex­cel­lent work she has writ­ten as a re­sult of her re­searches into the his­tory of the theatre she loves: Stan Lau­rel and Other Stars of the Panop­ti­con.

5 THE UN­CON­QUERED THE CAVES, ED­IN­BURGH, WED­NES­DAY TO FRI­DAY, 7.30PM

Not the 1954 movie about He­len Keller, but the 2007 Crit­ics’ Award for Theatre in Scot­land’s Best New Play win­ner, out on the road for a month-long tour in a re­vival pro­duc­tion with an en­tirely new cast. When he first saw it at the Byre in St An­drews more than a year ago, our theatre critic Neil Cooper praised Muriel Ro­manes’s “neo-ex­pres­sion­ist pro­duc­tion, height­ened even fur­ther by Keith McIn­tyre’s comic-book de­sign”, adding that Tor­ben Betts’s script was “a play not only in love with its own ar­ti­fice, but which re­mains au­da­cious enough to state the ob­vi­ous in an at-times star­tling fash­ion”.

With Kevin McMona­gle wait­ing for Godot at the Citz, Neil McKin­ven comes into a com­pletely fresh cast that also in­cludes Ni­cola Har­ri­son, Alexandra Mathie and Neal Barry. The tour is kick­ing off in one of those Ed­in­burgh Old Town venues that is usu­ally only pressed into ser­vice dur­ing the Fringe (when it is part of the Un­der­belly em­pire) and comes into Glas­gow’s Tron from April 8.

Last year the Guardian opined that The Un­con­quered was “ex­actly the kind of de­mand­ing, the­atri­cal and ad­ven­tur­ous show you’d want to see on a UK tour” but it is ac­tu­ally go­ing fur­ther than that as one of the Brits Off Broad­way sea­son in Man­hat­tan in May.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is a unique take on the clas­sic tale;The Un­con­quered is per­formed­with­inEd­in­burgh’sCaves;Ju­dith Bow­ers speaks about the his­tory of the Bri­tan­nia Panop­ti­con at the Aye Write! fes­ti­val; Ge­orge Wyl­lie’s ex­hibit opens at the Maclau­rin Gal­leries

PIC­TURES: ROSS MCDAIR­MANT/CEN­TRE PRESS AGENCY; CHRIS JAMES

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