Peter Grant meets Sir Matthew Bourne – the world famous theatre innovator.
”BONKERS! …” that’s a word Sir Matthew Bourne says proudly describing his forthcoming production at the Liverpool Playhouse.
Early Adventures is his own trip down memory lane. It is to celebrate his 30 years as a dancer and choreographer.
Now he is returning to his roots, so to speak. A creative re-invention of sorts with a wonderfully whimsical show.
It’s a programme of three hit pieces that launched the career of an all round artist who many in the entertainment world – audiences and critics alike – dub ‘Britain’s favourite choreographer’.
It saw the the birth of his style, wit and visual eye that has made his company New Adventures so popular.
Along with long time collaborator, designer Lez Brotherston it forms part of their 30th anniversary celebrations.
It includes a triple bill: the two-act Town and Country with some ukulele playing; Watch with Mother (both writtten in 1991) and The Infernal Gallop from 1989 a look at how the British view the French with an enchanting dance with sailors in Paris – there’s even a glorious can can sequence.
Three memorable pieces of dream-like storytelling. It’s now on a UK tour and enjoying rave reviews for its humour, realism and sensitvity.
Fans will be able to enjoy the germs of ideas that first started out in this work – and many of which later appeared in his grander scale productions.
”It is crazy, but very entertaining,” he says, enjoying a coffee with me in the Playhouse bar.
The ever-affable Londoner Mr B seems to have the Midas touch with his productions being staged all over the world.
From his stunning all-male, ground-breaking Swan Lake to Cinderella – set during the World War 2 blitz to his adaptation of Tim Burton’s film Edward Scissorhands.
His sumptious Sleeping Beauty has brought a new generation of dancers and dance lovers to the theatre.
Matthew Bourne never stands still since he first arrived on the scene in 1987. He has gone on to be one of the most sought-after innovative directors in the world.
Red Shoes, another of his stage adaptations, will be coming to the Liverpool Empire later this year. Already deemed a five-star hit.
He says if he hadn’t been a dancer he would have become a casting director.
Theatre is clearly in his blood. He loves being in the first night audiences for his shows, that is , if he has found the time in his exhausting schedule .
He is fond of Merseyside and its theatres.
”The audiences here are very vocal – each region responds differently to my shows, but I’ve always felt that about this area.
”One of my dancers was from the Wirral,” he points out with a smile, when I ask him if he has ever crossed the Mersey.
Matthew’s attention to detail is one of his great traits and his sense of humour.
”I have never actually been to the Wirral, but do tell your readers to come over and enjoy the show.”
Early Adventures is a celebration of ‘Englishness’.
”It is also about repression,” he says. ”I like the theme of repressiveness.
”This work is a revue and features a bit of old England, school days and playgrounds, rural scenes such as clog dancing.
”There’s George Formby, Fred and Ginger Rogers, oh and a hedgehog – there’s some lovely puppets.
”It is also a bit rude and saucy, but anyone, say over twelve yars of age, will enjoy it.
”Older people who remember Joyce Grenfell will recall her wonderful voicein the nursery school sketchs. That part of the bill will bring back memories.”
Although it is much smaller in scale, he says nothing at all is scaled down production-wise. It will have all his visual, beautfully-crafted hallmarks and audience-pleasing moments throughout.
It is what you would expect from a man with a life- love of dance, inspired by classic cinema and theatre who has always been bursting with ideas.
He tells me reaction to his tour has been wonderfully upbeat. ”I will stick with Bonkers – crazy even!
”Someone said it was like P.G Woodhouse come alive on stage.”
I ask if he likes Enid Blyton? ”Oh yes . Maybe that could be next…”
The multi-award winning 57-year-old Knight is looking forward to making his debut at what he calls the ‘beautiful, intimate Playhouse.’
”I like to lisiten to audiences, so I will be doing a Q and A while I’m on Meresyside.”
A rare treat indeed for fans to hear his take on his work.
And now 30 years on, that teenager who would wait outside stage doors and hotels for signatures of his heroes and heroines is the one signing his own name with a flourish complete with an added little extra a ‘heart’ logo.
Quite apt – since he loves his craft and puts his heart and soul into his creations.
I ask him about nostalgia – is it something he loves?
”No, not really.. I always look forward, But it is good to look back to see where certain ideas started. It’s good to put new energy into older work and re-visit.
”I hope the audiences on Merseyside look forward to looking back with me. It’s a fun, great little show.”
A Bourne again experience to relish.
EARLY ADVENTURES by Bourne, , Choreographer – Mathew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherstoni, Lighting – Andrew Murrell, Theatre Royal Bath, 2017, Credit: Johan Persson