8 June 2012

Early Adventures at Richmond Theatre

I love Matthew Bourne's work and have seen several of his performances in recent years (Sleeping Beauty is already booked for 2013).

Most of these have involved a trek to Sadler's Wells in North London (a very small price to pay) so a show closer to home was very welcome.

The occasion was the tour of Early Adventures which, as its name suggests, is a series of pieces choreographed before he became famous with his take on Swan Lake.

This is the sort of event that demands front-row seats in the circle to get the best view and to avoid any chance of getting a tall and/or annoying person in front.

It also demanded an early exit from the office in Cardiff to be sure of getting back to Richmond for the 7;30pm kick-off. That part worked well and I even had time for a pint of Otter in The Duke beforehand.

The first piece verged on gay porn, but in a good way.

Four men in what looked like their underwear tried to out do each other with their flamboyance.

The Matthew Bourne style was immediate obvious, though I suppose it is possible that some of this has been added for the new show.

Firstly it was fun. A lot of this came from the interplay between the characters which included acting as well as dancing. Typical of this was the dismissive looks they gave each other after each solo dance.

Also there were the exaggerated shapes that are so alien to traditional ballet but which seem so obvious now. Arms play a key part in this as they wrap around heads and stretch out at odd angles.

What was different was the amount of dancing that they did on the floor. This was common to all three pieces but is almost missing from the recent shows (that's my way of saying that I do not remember any at all but I do not want to say that there is none just in case that there is and I've forgotten it).

The other pieces were similar in dance style and used more of the cast, just five men and three women, to build on the themes.

Another Bourne trick was played here with the dancers all doing different things so that it is not obvious who you are meant to be following.

This was particularly obvious in Country when a folk dance that is meant to be about symmetry becomes a glorious chaos instead, but a chaos with a pattern and a design.

These are billed as early works, and chronologically that is true, but it is more appropriate to think of them as the string quartets that sit alongside the more famous and more approachable symphonies.

The restricted form is more difficult to compose and can be more difficult to appreciate but the rewards are greater when they work. And these work. Early Adventures is joyous, exuberant and charming.

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