Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures – Review – York Theatre Royal

matthew bourne new adventures review york theatre royal ballet

Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures – Review

York Theatre Royal, March 2017

by Sarah Churcher

From mother’s knee, to a romp in the park, then on to rolling hills and still further to gay Paris. This lovely triple bill production of Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures is some of his earliest work. Throughout the piece you see glimmers of what is to come in his later, full length, productions. The music is spectacular, we hear everything from Bach and Fauré and Edward Elgar, to Noel Coward and Edith Piaf.

matthew bourne new adventures review york theatre royal ballet whiteThe first piece, ‘Watch with Mother’, takes a nostalgic look at the way we used to be as we innocently played with our friends and family at school and at home. Bourne cleverly reminds us of games and feelings long forgotten. The talented ensemble of dancers create beautiful movements to evoke memories from the past.

The dancers are dynamic and energetic but give the movements the innocent mannerisms that they need and deserve in order to capture the childish nature of the story. The dancers all show their superb acting skills. It is eminently obvious why Bourne fills his company with dancers from all sorts of training backgrounds. The piece is sweet and fun and, at times, cruel. It singles out one poor chap who just cannot get in on the action, whether it be the game of conkers or doctors and nurses.

“A wonderful exhibition of dexterity, grace and humour”

matthew bourne new adventures review york theatre royal ballet scooterThe second piece of the night is a longer production with two acts, “Town” and then, after a short interval, “Country”. ‘Town and Country’ dates from 1991 and is an amusing walk through a bygone era, commenting on our national identity.

The dancers create a beautiful, evocative story throughout and there are so many moments of outstanding dance and performance that it just needs to be seen to be appreciated. But of note is the wonderful clog dance which starts as a sedate reminder of this historic art and ascends to a violent, competitive end. The unfortunate demise of poor Kevin the Hedgehog is now trending on Twitter!

In the Town, my favourite section is the infinitely clever bathing scene were we see two of the dancers elegantly taking a dip and then dressing for the day, ably assisted by their staff who have to try and grapple with their every movement to get them into their finest tweed. But succeed they do, with all four dancers putting on a wonderful exhibition of dexterity, grace and humour. No wonder the Company received their first Olivier award nomination for this in 1992, it is a triumph.

“Showcases the pure physicality that the dancers need”

matthew bourne new adventures review york theatre royal balletThe final adventure takes us to France and shows us every stereotype that we English just love to heap on those Parisians. Again the dancers are in total command of their art, with each of them showcasing the challenging choreography with great skill and attention to detail. Each drop in the music volume allows us to hear the dancers using their breath to make their movements ebb and flow, rise and fall.

The use of the dancer as a whole is so typical of Bourne, who not only showcases the pure physicality that these individuals need to dance his work, but the acting skills and emotional IQ that is required to make his work resonate with the audience. And it really does. The audience are captivated throughout and as the evening comes to an end with a sullen-faced Can-Can, the house shows its appreciation for this talented cast and their equally inspiring leader.

Bourne is such a clever and heartfelt choreographer that you should really go and see anything he puts on. But if you are lucky enough to get to choose, see this. It’s sublime.


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