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Theatre Review: Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures

27th March 2017

Photo by Johan Persson

Photo by Johan Persson

There is something intoxicating about Matthew Bourne. He is somehow able to indulge the stiff upper-lipped mores of British humour and yet make himself a rebel.

This telling of his Early Adventures is performed by his Re-Bourne troupe, renowned for its help of emerging artists. Showing in York Theatre Royal Friday last weekend and now touring the country, Bourne’s Early Adventures present a triple bill of short works. Each stand alone thematically, in deliverance and in their cheeky yet spellbinding retelling of classic routines.

Photo by Johan Persson

Photo by Johan Persson

The undertone that runs through all three pieces is one of humour and the expressive performers offer a brilliant, often tradition-breaking accessibility that often ballet steers away from. So very British in its humour, it consistently feels fresh and breaks the stiff upper-lipped wall often surrounding such skilful performance and dedication.

The dancers took us through ‘Watch With Mother’ and a Tom Brown-esque glimpse at British childhood – conkers, hopscotch and a healthy dose of alienation, portrayed gloriously through a heartbreaking performance by Paris Fitzpatrick.

The second sequence included my favourite dance featuring Mari Kamata and Joao Carolino bathing and dressing while dancing joyfully and with such precision that my heart stooped. Kamata in particular was one of the standouts of the whole show for me and the naturalness with which she moves takes you away from the format, making her utterly intoxicating to watch: her facial acting was spot on.

Photo by Johan Persson

Photo by Johan Persson

The third sequence offered a very tongue in cheek glimpse at what the French think the Brits think the French are like. Avoiding cliché and even laughing at it (a sneered through, lacklustre can can) – they knew people expected it so did it with eye-rolling horror.

Throughout the three dances, what needs to be expressed is the utter emotional brilliance. Tom Clark’s satire was exceptional, as were they all, but what stood out first and foremost is that these are exceptional dancers. This is in no way comical in execution and the elaborate precision in the physical storytelling was utter bliss. The music accompanying the whole enterprise, from Elgar to Chopin and from Edith Piaf to Noel Coward, is at once recognisably divine, darling, creating a feeling that you’ve seen something both familar and curtain-liftingly new.

Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures continues round the country until 12 April.

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