Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures is a chocolate box of his earliest work, re-packaged just in time for the Jubilee. It's a burlesque of the French and the British and it takes absolute delight in itself from beginning to end. The line-up includeded Spitfire from '88 (hilarious chaps in tighy-whiteys, flexing and beaming), Town and Country from '91and The Infernal Galop.
Earlier in the week I was attempting to stay awake through a retrospective of Trisha Brown's acclaimed If You Couldn't See Me, and wondering if I'd fallen so far since my days training as a dancer, that I couldn't see good choreography when it was on a stage in front of me. Then I went to Early Adventures and realised that was probably true. I'm a plebian. I couldn't really say anything bad about Brown's choreography, the woman's an icon, she changed the landscape of modern dance and my 19 year-year-old-self would have worshiped at her alter... but something just wasn't igniting for me any more. It was sort of sad actually.
Bourne, on the other hand, kept my over-exposed, over-entertained, borderline ADD brain in check for three entire acts without words. No mean feat. These works have aged well. The collection of entirely mundane and traditionally British and French day-to-day tasks such as taking a bath with one's maid/valet in attendance have been burlesqued with exquisite timing and simplicity, then performed (rather than danced) with top-notch technique and bags of charisma.
I was going to have a moan about the lack of live music, but on reflection the recorded music from the 20s, 30s and 40s was much more appropriate considering the importance of radio in the olden days.
Female dancers are used beautifully in this collection too, or rather, they're not used. If they are it's as props to the chaps which, if you've ever been a female ballet dancer with various guys' hands up your tutu while you balance on your slowly breaking toes, you'll appreciate.
The choreography holds fast. It's endlessly playful in a cacophony of cliches, Charlie Chaplin funny and has moments of poignancy that drag you back through the years to a slowed-down Can-can, a men's urinal, two could-be-sapphic Parisians, a moonlit English countryside and a poor hedgehog's funeral. And yes, expertly choreographed bottom-sex in a urinal.