Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Director: Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Bryony Luther
On the 30th anniversary of the creation of Matthew Bourne’s company, New Adventures showcases a selection of his early work showing the seeds of his later signature style and humour.
The performance begins with Watch With Mother, a piece that has not been seen for 25 years and it’s understandable why this piece is not often performed. It looks at the ideas of competitiveness and the nastiness that can come across in the games children play. While this is an interesting idea, the piece feels underdeveloped and lacks the wit and cleverness of Bourne’s usual choreography relying too much on nostalgic references to childhood play. One child, played by Tom Clark, is left out of the group and picked on by the other children. Clark’s performance shines with awkwardness and naivety making him different from the others and easy to tease. Though his eventual acceptance into the group is touching, it feels unearned.
The heart of this production is the very English Town and Country which shows snapshots of the lives of the people living in these two locations. It begins in the town showing us moments in the life of the middle class. There is many notable scenes in this amusing piece. Particular stand outs are the scene revolving around the servants trying to wash and dress a middle-class pair who are endlessly distracted and the touching dance between the master of the house played by Edwin Ray and his guest to Dearest Love by Noel Coward. Each dance is witty, inventive and even surprising such as the unexpected pastiche of Brief Encounter. The lives of the people in the country differ greatly from the townsfolk, from working on the farm and hunting to an animal funeral. The clog dance, performed by Daniel Collins and Paris Fitzpatrick, is the most humorous of the country scenes even with the shock ending. Town and Country is the strongest piece in this production and this early work truly shows the beginnings of Bourne’s style.
The last piece is The Infernal Galop, a satire of the English’s idea of the French. It displays a series of vignettes of life in France from two women waiting for their lovers to return to the weird and wonderful dance of the three sailors serenading a merman. One of the themes this work focuses on is ridiculing the idea of France being the highly romantic place it is often seen as by the English. This is used several times but most effectively during the dance between the two couples where they dramatically share their feelings for each other almost competitively. The piece ends with the famous can-can dance but, instead of the usual high energy, it is performed with deadpan faces and characters resigned to their fate as the French stereotype. The Infernal Galop is full of clichés of how we imagine the French but it is mocked affectionately and with great humour.
While Early Adventures starts slow, it soon builds into a strong performance which represents the wit and clever choreography that Bourne is famous for. This production is an attractive opportunity to see some of Bourne’s early works from before he became one of the most popular choreographers of his generation.
Runs until 11 February 2017 then continuing to tour | Image: Contributed