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Monday 16 August 2021

Interview: Sir Matthew Bourne Talks Return Of Live Theatre & World Premiere Of The Midnight Bell @ Theatre Royal Brighton

As Sir Matthew Bourne prepares to bring the World Premiere of  The Midnight Bell, to Theatre Royal Brighton, next month, the master storyteller and maestro of dance theatre is excited about reaching a whole new audience.`

"It's going to be a really intimate experience," the choreographer and director says of The Midnight Bell, which will be visiting many of the smaller-scale venues his previous ventures have been too big to fit into.

He promises audiences will get "a strong connection with the characters, an emotional experience, with a few laughs along the way" from the world premiere production, which will also be calling at larger-sized theatres. 
"And I hope they'll be delighted by the playfulness of it," adds the Artistic Director of New Adventures. 

"I want them to be delighted not just by the story itself but also by the way we tell it."
The stories in question are inspired by the work of the English novelist and playwright Patrick Hamilton, whose acclaimed books like Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky and Hangover Square centred around working-class London folk and were published mainly from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Set in the early 1930s, Bourne's version brings together a bunch of characters from different novels and wonders what would happen if they all went to the same pub, namely the Midnight Bell of the title. 
Even though the tale takes places some nine decades ago, Bourne feels it will chime with audiences today. 

The characters are desperately seeking social contact. 

"And that's a theme that definitely resonates now. People are seeking to reconnect after spending so much time in lockdown."
When we meet, fittingly, at the King's Head Theatre Pub in Islington, Matthew adds: 

"It's interesting because it"s almost like we're all out of practice. I've spoken to people who feel like a fog comes over them when they're out in public and these characters are trying to break through that sort of foggy loneliness that can take you over." 

Hamilton's London is not a side of the era we usually see on stage. 

Rather than the glamorous cocktail-sipping bright young things favoured by Noel Coward, the characters are "resolutely unglamorous" everyday people. 

And stylistically, they're more Peaky Blinders than Private Lives. 

"With the pub setting and the characters, I'd say it's very much like Peaky Blinders with the brown and gold colours, the hats, the style that"s a great style but not glam in any way. It's very much a working-class world."
Just as people were desperate to get back to pubs when lockdown eased earlier this year, Bourne believes they"re also craving live shows. 

"And I think they're especially excited about things that are fresh. I know I am. I think they're dying to get back not just to a live experience but a new live experience."
His cast are certainly eager to get back to work. 

Richard Winsor is returning to New Adventures after he last toured with the company in Dorian Gray in 2013, and the actor and dancer - who became a household name when he played Caleb Knight in Casualty - stars as George Harvey Bone, a melancholic who seeks solace in alcohol.
"I've wanted to work with Matthew again for a while," the 39-year-old says about what lured him back. 

"This marks the 20th anniversary of when I first joined the company for The Car Man in 2001, so that's another reason. 

"And also George is such an interesting, complex character so I jumped at the chance."

Matthew adds: 

"It's about wordless storytelling and that's what I always think about when approaching a new project: Can I tell the story without dialogue? And that can mean many things. 

"Dance is the primary one but it's also about using good actors because it's not just told through dance - it's told through body language, mime, all sorts of things as well as the costumes, design and music. 
Matthew Bourne's The Midnight Bell visits Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday 14th – Saturday 18th September 2021. CLICK HERE for tickets.

by: Mike Cobley & Simon Button


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