Saturday, February 25, 2017

EARLY ADVENTURES at Richmond Theatre - Matthew Bourne goes back to before...

Happy Anniversary to Matthew Bourne who has been choreographing and leading his own dance companies for 30 years - a remarkable achievement for a choreographer.  To celebrate this anniversary, we have had the new and thrilling new production THE RED SHOES and his WWII spin on Prokofiev's CINDERELLA will be revived at Christmas but in the meantime we have a tour of three early works which show the genesis of the Bourne style EARLY ADVENTURES.

It was a bit of a culture shock seeing it, coming so soon after being immersed in the stage and screen representations of the Royal Ballet's profound WOOLF WORKS, at first it seemed a bit too lightweight and throwaway, but it won over with it's abundance of cheeky irreverence and winning style.  The patrons at Richmond seemed a bit thrown by the brevity of the works - the whole triple bill was over in two hours - but they were just the right length.

It is proof that Bourne's style arrived fairly well fully-formed; there are moves in these early pieces which would not have looked out of place in 2016's THE RED SHOES.  His whole style can be traced to his Laban training: the principal tenets of body - effort - shape - space could almost describe his choreography.  But Bourne infuses his choreography with a delicious sense of fun and character; sometimes this can overtip productions - EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is all character and very little actual dance - but when the balance is right it's wonderful.

First up was the only one of the three I had not seen, WATCH WITH MOTHER from 1991, Bourne's take on a 1950s "music and movement" primary school class.  Danced to music arranged by Percy Grainger and featuring moments from Joyce Grenfell's school teacher sketch, the company of nine dancers, 3 female and 6 male, had great fun with their skipping, leaping and stretched movements.  This was one of the first pieces that Bourne worked on and it shows the youthful zest of Bourne finding his visual language.

The second (and third as it was broken up by an unnecessary interval) was TOWN AND COUNTRY, Bourne's hymn of praise to all things English.  By far the more interesting of the two sections TOWN gave a particular spotlight to the ever-dependable Danny Collins as a ukulele-playing butler and a sneering waiter in a tea-room which features in Bourne's loving tribute to BRIEF ENCOUNTER only this time there were two pairs of Alec and Laura's!  Meanwhile a posh couple get undressed and bathed by their stoic servants, a male gay couple slowly express their love and the whole company whiz around the stage on scooters - see hipsters, you didn't invent them.  The soundtrack is delicious with, among others, Noel Coward, Rachmaninoff, Eric Coates and Jack Strachey's glorious IN PARTY MOOD (aka the 'Housewives' Choice' theme).

The COUNTRY section is my least favourite, I find it outstays it's welcome but there was still nice moments including clog-dancing yokels right out of LA FILLE MAL GARDE, indeed their galumphing about cause the death of a cute hedgehog - don't panic he's a glove-puppet.

The final section was my favourite, THE INFERNAL GALOP from 1989.  Bourne's tribute to all-things Parisian includes the mer-man (dressed in silk dressing gown and socks) assisted by three matelots and the fabulous routine of two men attempting to have a rendezvous in a pissoir who are frequently interrupted by a mariachi band!  Although played for comedy, Bourne's choreography for the two men is outstanding and very sexy, the pay-off is also a surprise!

It was lovely to see these three works onstage, the company were full of character and great fun, Bourne's regular stage designer Lez Brotherston provided a simple canopied set which finally paid off in the final section and Andrew Murrell was responsible for the atmospheric lighting - although whoever was in charge of the dry-ice might think twice about swamping the stage so much for the start of THE INFERNAL GALOP.

The EARLY ADVENTURES tour continues in Oxford, Poole, Madrid, Blackpool, York, Liverpool, Sadler's Wells (the company's regular home in London), Northampton and Beverly Hills - if you are in the area do see this delightful, frothy production.

No comments: