Los Angeles Dance Preview: MATTHEW BOURNE’S EARLY ADVENTURES (The Wallis in Beverly Hills)

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by Tony Frankel on April 20, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


Touring internationally for the first part of the year, Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures—a program of the newly knighted choreographer’s first works—will have one U.S. appearance. And it’s right here in Los Angeles for one weekend only, May 17-21, 2017, at the Wallis in Beverly Hills. One of the greatest living dance-makers, Bourne has resuscitated three pieces created between 1989 and 1991, around the time he founded his company Adventures in Motion Pictures (which, in 2002, morphed into New Adventures). The Bram Goldsmith Theater is an astounding venue for dance; the 500 raked seats ensure perfect sightlines, and it’s awesome to capture a full stage picture while being able to see the dancers’ facial expressions.

The evening begins with “Watch with Mother,” (pictured above) which hasn’t been seen in 25 years. Subtitled “Seen but not heard?” the 1991 work is set to Joyce Grenfell’s Nursery School sketches and Percy Grainger’s own piano compositions of Bach and Fauré. It’s the touching story of a gay schoolboy, heartbroken at the sight of his two friends kissing; his gut-wrenching experience proves that children’s games can be all-consuming, competitive and sometimes cruel.

“Town and Country” (above) is a pastiche of the English character (and it gave Bourne and his dance company their first Olivier Award in 1992). Really, it’s a gentle poke at England’s national pride and its love of the bucolic English countryside; it includes a three-minute abridged revue of Brief Encounter—complete with repressed gentlemen waiters—and a funny imagining of how clog dancing might have come about. Set to Noël Coward, Elgar, and Grainger, all you need to do is exactly what the piece’s subtitle requests: “Lie back and think of England.”

With an off-kilter, wacky Parisian backdrop, “The Infernal Gallop” is named after the actual title of the Offenbach snippet that’s better-known as the can-can. This 1989 piece is France and the French as seen by Brits (the ”uptight English imagination” according to the press release), so expect Piaf, Trenet, et al. accompanying perky and imaginatively constructed little episodes of insouciant bathing and grand amour à la française, including two gay Parisians cruising around the city’s iconic pissoirs—the 4-minute clip below shows that when a troupe of gaudy dancers in red berets repeatedly thwart the couple’s love-making, it’s both hilarious and tragic.

The 2 hour, 10 minute evening—including two intermissions—will be filled with traditional Bourneian spice, originality and theatricality performed by nine company members.

photos by Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures
presented by New Adventures
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Bram Goldsmith Theater
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills
May 17-21, 2017: Wed-Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2
for tickets ($39 – $99), call 310.746.4000 or visit The Wallis

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