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Warwick Arts Centre review: Matthew Bourne's The Midnight Bell


The Midnight Bell, Warwick Arts Centre, to Saturday, Nov 13.

By Margaret Mather

This is another triumph for Matthew Bourne, the master of choreography.

The lives of working-class people are laid bare in this thought-provoking piece. They come together nightly at the pub to find something that will lift them out of their boring lives, but anything they do find, whether it be drowning their sorrows in drink or finding love, quickly fades the following day.

The set is a work of art in itself, portraying London in the1930s. Dimly lit windows hang from the ceiling with a dark, depressing outline of tawdry boarding houses surrounding them. Murky streets with long shadows hide the misery within, and a telephone box hangs suspended in mid-air. The only light in the fog and depression is the pub where people find solace in their own misery and that of others.

Midnight Bell is inspired by English novelist Patrick Hamilton whose own novels (Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky and Hangover Square) were born out of his time spent observing in the pubs of London, and the performances, by the exceptionally talented New Adventures dance theatre, are exquisite.

They toy with the emotions, each stretch of a leg or placement of an arm telling its own tale. There's the poor barmaid trying to find love, the beautifully performed relationship between two gay men, and the performance of the drunk in the pub when he breaks down after a rebuff from the woman of his dreams is outstanding.

This is Matthew Bourne at his finest.

Tickets from: warwickartscentre.co.uk