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Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures at Richmond Theatre & Touring

Published by: Kate Braxton on 16th Feb 2017 | View all blogs by Kate Braxton

The popularity of dance for the British public has soared over the past 10 years, thanks to the foresight and insight of a singular BBC television show. Yet long before this, a singular individual was shaping the future of accessible, popular dance hailed in Britain, for audiences across the globe.

Marking the 30th anniversary of his own dance company, the current touring production of Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures demonstrates with joyful celebration and unique, comfy-in-its-own-skin movement, why he is referred to as ‘Britain’s favourite choreographer’. Bourne is the creator of the world’s longest running ballet production, a five-time Olivier Award winner, and the only British director to have won the Tony Award for both Best Choreographer and Best Director of a Musical. And the affection for his work is alive in every one of the company dancers in this production, who, if they were honest, are close to heaven under Bourne’s masterful direction, such is the show’s overriding authentic sense of joy.

This triple bill of succinctly-crafted works - Watch with Mother, Town and Country and The Infernal Galop feels as relevant today as to an audience when it ws first performed in the 1980’s. Bourne’s wide-reaching and lasting appeal works through a fusion of touching and wit-led story-telling, bringing nostalgic scenic tableaux to life in a captivating, timeless style.

The eras depicted in the pastiche scenes are merely vehicles for commentary on basic human limitations and foibles at the hest of community social mores. And Bourne has the ability to elicit bursts of belly laugh through pithy, perfectly-timed visual gags, ranging from a duo of country bumpkins clog dance which we are led to believe may never end, to the sombre funeral procession of a glove puppet hedgehog. It’s fun-poking joy, with occasional life-based sinister undertones. But laughter at human imperfection is at the core, as Bourne’s sublime command of timing facilitates quite personal connections with the audience through identification.

The visual backdrops and wardrobe are generally hard to get emotional about. The scenes of all three works have echoes of absurdist theatre; surreal, painted backdrops offsetting larger-than-life facial expressions, borderline grotesque characterisation wrapped up in some Brechtian alienation effect.

Joie de vie fills the stage from start to finish. It is timeless, proud and completely at ease with itself. Anybody wishing to experience a living stagecraft master at work should not miss his Early Adventures. And all that for a man who started dancing at 22, when most young wannabees have retired through injury. Class of his own.

Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures is currently touring the UK until 12th April 2017. For further information, see




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