Tuesday, October 19

Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell: New Adventures

- September 17, 2021

Bourne’s career has taken a stellar path from the start but last night was perhaps the highest part of that curve to date. The Midnight Bell demonstrates his skill for storytelling through dance or should I say dance theatre, Bourne certainly takes the two and brings them together in a way that is mature, fine and truly modern.

Bringing together a genuine sense of the works of Patrick Hamilton, not a straight telling of his novels and plays but an essence of the time, the characters and the place that has me wantiing to revisit those great novels once more. In short The Midnight Bell is a work of, dare I say it, genius and from the long standing ovation it received I guess I would not be alone in thinking that.

Bourne is also generous in spirit sharing the credit for the choreography of the work with his company New/Adventures and what a company they are. There is fluidity, tension, drama and dramatic skill in this finely honed cast that it sompelling and captivating, not a moment is wasted, from delicious solos and duets to intense and complex ensemble pieces.

Bourne’s new work starts unusually with a single character lip-syncing to a period song, an interesting move but a device that he returns to throughout the piece to great effect.

The use of period songs in amongst Terry Davies’ score and Paul Groothuis sound design is impressively seamless and the whole work demands a second listening, I hope a recording will follow.

Bourne once again has worked with designer Lez Brotherstone and again the settings which drift in and out are beautifully concieved and realised, the dark and broody atmosphere of Hamilton’s Fitzrovia defying the bounds of the stage and the proscenium. And this is made all the more effective by Paul Constable’s incredible lighting, retaining that sense of dark menace whilst at the same time making sure that we the audience can see everything we are meant to see.

As for the dancers it feels mean to not name any but truth is there are too many to name individually and each member of this super talented company gives their all to complete a work of real theatrical importance, every dancer on that stage deserves five shining stars.

If you fail to catch this breathtaking piece here in Brighton then chase it as it tours and heads for Sadlers Wells.

Andrew Kay

Theatre Royal Brighton

16 September

Rating: ★★★★★

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