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If You Don’t Enjoy This Your Children Aren’t Safe

September 22, 2009

Dorian Gray- 19th September 2009, The Curve Theatre, Leicester

Matthew Bourne is magnificent. I want to state that categorically before I enter into any sort of discussion of Dorian Gray. The production I saw last night was exquisite, the performances technically excellent and the dancers emotionally elloquent. I recommend this dance to you without reservation. If anything in the following review dissuades you from going, then disregard it! Anyone who doesn’t enjoy this production is almost certainly some kind of robot, do not trust them. Anyone who can watch this and not come away slightly awed, slightly amused and totally thrilled is probably a danger to your health. Do not leave your children with such people, such people are wrong at a fundemental level.

Bourne takes the original Wilde story and updates it, setting his version in a high-end fashion house. The sexuality implicit in the text is made explicit. The homo-erotic subtext of Dorian Gray is brought to the fore, as you would expect in a Bourne production, and I have to say I was impressed with way this was handled.

The last thing I saw from this choreographer was his wonderfully kitsch take on The Nutcracker. Memorable for the athropomorphised sweets licking each other, the colours where bright, the sexuality rampant and the tongue decidedly in cheek. My fear when going to see Dorian Gray was that a similar, titilating approach would be used. The dark sexual currents in Wilde’s story recquired a much subtler approach.

Matthew Bourne does not dissapoint. Though the movement is at times very sexual, (after all the characters are having sex) it never becomes merely erotic. I would actually say that Bourne’s wonderful talent is for the un-sexy. The dancers are physically stunning, and almost naked a lot of the time. That my focus remained on the characters rather than the dancer’s bodies, even when those dancers where rubbing the planes of their bodies against each other,  is a testament to the incredibly well managed choreography of Bourne and the powerful self possesion of the dancers.

The piece does, at times, drift into Carry-On-esque sexual slapstick, but it is always done with a light touch. Nothing in this production feels heavy handed, crude, or childish. The comic relief such moments provide is probably essential in such a sinister, brooding piece as this.

The story is told entirely without words, the story and places described using a few well managed props and set pieces. The set (which rotated!) was incredibly well managed. If there is anything I’m unsure of in this piece it’s the narritive content of the second half. I tripped over the events of the second half. My friends, who are complete dance virgins, spent a few minutes lost as to what was happening. I’m not sure if, from this production alone, I’d be able to tell you what exactly Dorian does. But in reflection, I think this was intentional choice by Bourne.

The first half has extraordinary clarity. The second half, after Dorian’s first murder, has a more dreamlike quality. Nightmarish in fact. We weren’t entirely sure who was killing who, but I sense Dorian wasn’t either. Matthew Bourne is known for his highly accesible dance theatre. For him to make even the tiniest dalliance with the abstract is surely an intentional and brave move. One, I think, that was entirely succesful.

In summary, this is amazing. The dancers are beautiful. What the dancers do is beautiful. The story is told magnificently and I would like to be Matthew Bourne. If you have a chance to watch this, do so.

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