MATTHEW BOURNE'S EARLY ADVENTURES
New Adventures at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge
Retrieved from the back of the choreographer's drawers, three early pieces from the distant 90s, before Bourne became mainstream.
They make a very entertaining evening, packed with knowing wit, beautifully designed by Lez Brotherstone, though in Cambridge we had only the basic back-projection, and the art nouveau arch throughout.
First up, Spitfire, from 1988. Most of us older aficionados could recognise the cheesy, preening catalogue poses here, with Persil-white undies in various styles. You'd have to be a bit of a balletomane to see the reference to Perrot's original pas de quatre. And I'm still not sure why it was called Spitfire. But it was beautifully performed, with archly camp callisthenics and hilarious facial expressions.
From the year after, Galop Infernal, which closed the programme. A cheeky glance across the channel, with a rampant colonne Wallace and a vespasienne dominating the stage. Nicely dressed in shades of grey, like a Doisneau photo, and lashings of popular song – three matelots for La Mer, an OTT treatment of Piaf. Lots of floor-work here as elsewhere in the evening, making me glad I'd gone for the balcony.
Either side of a rather awkward interval, the two companion pieces Town and Country, from 1991. Town featured ukuleles, little red scooters, ironic embroidery, a camp Carnforth for very Brief Encounters, assisted bathing and Sailing By. Country, against an idyll of the kind featured in petrol posters, had ridiculous rusticity, a clog dance, and a cuddly hedgehog puppet whose funeral provided an oddly moving moment.
Very nostalgic, full of the unexpected; wonderfully uplifting stuff from a young man whose work was cutting edge and dangerous way back then ...