Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures

March 28 – April 1

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

Let’s start at the very end, which seems appropriate because of Matthew Bourne’s mischievous fondness and clever knack for turning the everyday and established topsy turvy. After all, his Q&A session seemed to have had the biggest ever turn out, and included a lot about his background as

well as his career.

The title alone is a big hint about what lies in store, enhanced by the programme and the idea of tasteful pastiche; the nostalgia of the Famous Five mashed with the wit and subversion of the ‘Five Go…’ series. Similarly, the setting, backed by a proscenium arch which was graced by an elegant glass canopy and flanked by imposing pillars. Notably, the space was filled with a very colourful, almost Fauve like, landscape for ‘Country’ and celebrated Parisian landmarks for ‘The Infernal Galop’. Although this last was the earliest piece, the order seems logical, starting with schooldays in ‘Watch With Mother’, ‘Town and Country’ being the filling in a scrumptious sandwich – especially for those new to Dance. After all, one of the main aims here is pour encourager les autres; introducing people to its pleasures, and for them and those already fans to investigate the bigger picture eg other productions such as the forthcoming Cinderella.

The dancers themselves, all superb and delightfully clad (for the most part), were so much of an ensemble, impossible to single anybody out. Their fluidity and exhuberance was a joy to watch, with the vivacity of their often inventive miming, and the humour, from sly to witty, paying homage to the audience’s intelligence. And, naturally, the choreography, an intriguing combination, graceful yet occasionally, almost ungainly. For example, some hand gestures were almost reminscent of shadow play, and so much is going on in certain scenes, it can be a little hard to focus.

Anyway, simpler to focus on the highlights, which of course, includes the vried choice of music, although that could apply to every single piece. In ‘Watch with Mother’, in between the schoolday scenes came Doctors and Nurses, almost fiendishly relishing an operation. With ‘Town’, it had to be the two couples in Brief Encounter with the alternative ending, as well as the earrlier piece featuring a maid and a manservant courtesy of Molière or Shakespeare. Lots to choose from in ‘Country’, such as the Clog Dance and the plaintive finale, The Headgehog’s Funeral. Finally, ‘The Infernal Galop’, delightfully described as A French Dance with English Subtitles, and beautfully, extravagantly performed. It was amusing to witness a version of the Cancan which was initially subdued, almost sulky.

Each scene was rapturously received, and speaking as somebody who is by no means an aficianado, the show was entrancing. As a result, other productions beckon, irresistible – actions do speak louder than words, with the Bourne Supremacy.

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