Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Dance review: Play Without Words

Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words, which he first produced at the National ten years ago, gets revived for a tour to mark the 25th anniversary of Bourne's New Adventures company. Set in 1965, with a jazzy, trumpet-heavy score by Terry Davies, the show is based on Robin Maugham's The Servant and Joseph Losey's film version. Bourne's dance retelling of a story of multiple infidelities uses up to three dancers at a time to play each character: Anthony (Adam Maskell, Chris Trenfield, Richard Winsor) initially resists the temptation of housemaid Sheila (Anabel Kutay, Hannah Vassallo) but eventually succumbs, only to be caught by his manservant Prentice (Daniel Collins, Alastair Postlethwaite, Neil Westmoreland.) Prentice blackmails his boss with the information, but Anthony's fiancée Glenda (Madelaine Brennan, Saranne Curtin, Anjali Mehra) is herself cheating with a mystery man.

Lez Brotherston's set is focused around a revolving double staircase that helps create some striking visuals along, of course, with Bourne's choreography. Though far from a dance fan and even less of an expert, I can at least say I found Play Without Words entertaining, a sexy and visually impressive show. Following the details of the story being told was a bit trickier, even at the end Richard and I were undecided on whether Glenda's lover was the manservant or someone else (the latter, I think, the cast list does list an "old friend" [Jonathan Ollivier, Postlethwaite and Trenfield] which suggests to me he's the lover.) But even if the big picture eluded us we both enjoyed the setpieces - the multiple casting of all the roles leads to a funny scene where one version of the valet dresses his master, while another version simultaneously undresses him. The master/valet reversal is another interesting dynamic - though we agreed the scenes between the two seemed to have more of a 1920s vibe than the rest of the show's 1960s setting.


Play Without Words by Matthew Bourne and Terry Davies, based on The Servant by Robin Maugham and the film adaptation by Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey is booking until the 5th of August at Sadler's Wells; and from the 7th to the 11th of August at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes including interval.

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