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Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures (Tour - Oxford)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Matthew Bourne is, for me, the greatest story-teller in dance today. His full-length works such as Swan Lake are rightfully viewed as modern classics. His style may not appeal to ballet purists but there is no-one who can beat him for his theatrical verve, imagination and visual flair - well, at least for my money!

And so it was with a sense of great delight that I went along to this evening of three of his early short pieces.

I was certainly not disappointed. It was a trio of entertaining and polished performances - delivered with great technical skill and considerable panache.

It is not often that any theatre piece consists entirely of toned young men dancing in their white underwear - but Spitfire which opens the performance is that and a lot more. It is an exploration of the world of masculinity seen through the lens of advertising images and acts as a thought-provoking and cheeky curtain-raiser.

The most substantial piece of the three is Town and Country - again another work with a period feel - evoking an idyllic view of English life in the early decades of the Twentieth century. Danced with great flair, it took us on a whirlwind tour of urban and rural life - filling the stage with vibrant images that linger long into the night. There are two stand-out moments - firstly the powerful 'Shallow Brown' sequence which comes towards the end of the Country section as is intensely danced and deeply moving. The other is the appearance of a hedgehog. I won't spoil this for any future audiences, but it is brilliant!

The presentation concludes with The Infernal Galop, Bourne's look at all things Parisian. Full of gallic shrugs and evocative music, this is a dark and seductive piece of choreography that transports you to a city full of passion, gauloises and cheap red wine.

Certainly this is an evening of contrasts but one that gives you a real insight into the development of Bourne as a choreographer and a theatre-maker. His dancers are consistently on top of their game - capturing the shifting moods and tones of the pieces with skill and commitment in every gesture. It is probably one of the best acted pieces of dance theatre that I can recall having witnessed.

Everyone in the theatre had huge smiles on their faces throughout the evening - and that is down to the brilliance of the man behind it all. I hope that, from his seat in the front row, he enjoyed it as much as the rest of us!


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