THERE’S little enough outright joy in the world these days, so thanks to Sir Matthew Bourne for providing a large slice with his Early Adventures.
Three of the shows that set the language, style and pace for Bourne’s triumphant career have been revived for a tour that started at Bath before travelling the UK and a bit of mainland Europe, ending in Los Angeles.
It all starts with Joyce Grenfell’s immortal voice, in the lead up to the (unspoken) George – Don’t Do That! . The company, dressed as kindergarten pupils, skip, jump, play conkers and hopscotch … and ostracise a strangely lumpy child who is very clearly NOT a team player. Early adventures it might be, but it is also an insight into the nature of the prince in Bourne’s biggest hit, Swan Lake, with its menacing male swan chorus.
Then it’s time to lie back and think of England in Town and Country. With music by Elgar and Grainger, Coward and Coates, the audience is rushed through preconceptions of sophisticated urban life and bucolic rural habits. In Bourne’s 1991 work, city dwellers are playfully arrogant sybarites or tentatively enjoy a green carnation moment, while their country cousins milk cows, dance the Morris and massacre anything in fur or feather. It’s a hilarious romp with a sting in the tail.
The final piece, The Infernal Galop, was first performed in 1989 and focuses on louche Paris as seen by the uptight English. It’s all about sex, with a coating of Gallic romance. There is no hesitation at the pissoir, and less on the lawns of the Louvre, as Edith Piaf’s unmistakable voice sings of passion and everyone gets together to (almost) dance the can can.
The audience at Bath rose in a roar of delight at the end.
If you missed the show in Bath, be sure to catch it at Exeter Northcott from 9th to 11th February, or at Poole’s Lighthouse on Friday and Saturday 10th and 11th March.