Phil Willmott enjoys some balletic homo-eroticism, touring to a theatre near you
According to the publicity Matthew Bourne is the nation's favourite choreographer. You won't have seen him on Strictly but he's had an extraordinary, award-laden career, outlined over two whole pages of the programme. Indisputably his biggest hit has been his reinterpretation of Swan Lake in which he had the brilliant idea of making the swans beautiful, predatory young males. The result crackles with sexual tension and when the prince's obsession with their leader leads to his doom it's incredibly moving. The production's been touring the world pretty much non-stop, you can buy the DVD and it's recently been filmed in 3D which will be well worth seeing.
Sadlers Wells theatre is currently home to a very entertaining evening reviving three of Bourne's early pieces. The first, Spitfire, really indulges anyone whose primary interest is to enjoy watching very hot guys dancing in next to nothing. It's based on both a traditional ballerina dance-off and the preening of Calvin Cline models. Instead of ballerinas four beautiful guys in different combinations of underwear compete for our attention with a series of dances designed to demonstrate their technical brilliance. What makes this piece such fun is that not only are the four extraordinary dancers but terrific comic actors too and they capture brilliantly the preening, aloof vanity of young men who know just how gorgeous they are. It's clear to see how the beautiful and ferocious swans evolved out of this piece.
The second ballet is a spoof of work by the choreographer Frederick Ashton and features a dozen or so short pieces based around 1930s fashion plates, first of city life then of idealised country scenes. There's a big dollop of homo-eroticism here too with high society types and then farm lads making out to the thoroughly "British" music of Elgar and Percy Granger. There's also a wonderful condensed version of Brief Encounter performed as a ballet and terrific sequences based around masters and servants at bath time followed by the gorgeous male and female cast hurtling around the stage on children's scooters. Once again, their witty facial expressions really add to the fun.
Finally there's a sequence
of dances inspired by Paris in the 1930's the most memorable of which features
four guys cottaging which culminates in two of them being constantly
interrupted as they're getting down to it.
Bourne fans will really
enjoy seeing how these early works informed the period style of his later
ballets like Cinderella and Play With Out Words.
This an extremely enjoyable
evening of accomplished dancing and witty, inspired choreography that sizzles
with homo-eroticism. In fact it's so über gay that I did wonder whether
straight men and women might feel alienated. Don't take mum and dad!
VERDICT: **** (Four Stars)
A funny, sexy reminder of how Matthew Bourne began.
Dates for the show are
May 21-26 Sadler's Wells London
May 29-30 Royal and Derngate, Derngate Northampton
May 31-June 2 Richmond Theatre Richmond-upon-Thames
June 5- 6 Sherman Cymru Cardiff
June 7- 9 Hall for Cornwall Truro
June 11-13 Playhouse Oxford
June 14-16 Arts Cambridge
June 19-20 Warwick Arts Centre Coventry
June 21-23 Churchill Bromley
June 27-28 Playhouse Nottingham
June 29-30 Regent Ipswich
Click here to visit the website for the London stint
of the tour