The Midnight Bell is Matthew Bourne’s bleakest work to this point however it’s up there along with his finest. The temper is becoming provided that the supply materials is the novels of Patrick Hamilton, chronicler of the lonely, needy and seedy in alcohol-soaked Thirties Soho. Turning the likes of Hangover Sq. and The Slaves of Solitude into dance is a tall order, the hole between the books’ grim realism and dance theatre’s artifice awkwardly vast, however he pulls it off (if not fairly plunging to the dank depths of the originals – you possibly can’t ship folks residence that hopelessly depressed). Fairly than staging the novels, Bourne collects Hamilton’s characters, plus a number of of his personal making, within the smoke-stained pub The Midnight Bell, the place they collect seeking a drink and determined connection.
Their eyes and our bodies meet, however their duets are filled with resistance too and humiliation isn’t distant. There’s the fresh-faced barmaid, too well mannered to extricate herself from an admirer; the spinster attracting the eye of a cad, who thaws her froideur and steals from her purse; there’s the chirpy barman, puppyishly in love with a intercourse employee (an autobiographical storyline based mostly on Hamilton’s personal doomed amorous affairs); the 2 males furtively discovering one another; and most chillingly, George Harvey Bone (from Hangover Sq.), a person with schizophrenia who fantasises about strangling the girl who eludes him.
The dancers transfer in ever-shifting permutations, like chess items on a crowded board, artfully skirting out of each other’s means or falling into tense entanglements. The Midnight Bell belongs to the identical faculty as Play With out Phrases: it’s not the danciest of Bourne’s works however the characters’ bodily signatures are clearly outlined. It’s all there of their gait, whether or not the slight stoop of Bone (an excellent Richard Winsor, by no means overegging it), the tightly held physique of Miss Roach (Michela Meazza, with loads of subtlety taking part in out on her face), or the rubbery bounce of waiter Bob (an endearing Paris Fitzpatrick), optimistically kicking his heels.
Though in a means little occurs, the present is effectively paced, the characters’ small journeys each seismic and insignificant, like most lives. It really works as a result of Bourne is all around the small particulars, from the best way Jenny (Bryony Wooden) slouches on the mattress to the timing of a hiccup. The choreography is tight and the solid are sturdy. Liam Mower and Andrew Monaghan have probably the most to discover dance-wise – and emotionally too, navigating a homosexual relationship on the fringes of acceptability, even to Monaghan’s personal character.
The present’s success owes a lot to the environment created by Bourne’s collaborators: Paul Groothuis’s sound design, the birdsong and footsteps and automotive engines that make the town hum even within the early hours; and Lez Brotherston’s designs, cleverly shifting to point a warren of Soho streets, only a pink roof and a receiver to characterize a phone field; all enhanced by Paule Constable’s lighting. Basic is Terry Davies’ unusually textured rating, which turns into heady and maudlin: the sound of three or 4 whiskies. In between, the characters lip-sync Thirties songs as monologues addressed to the viewers: Leslie Hutchinson’s recording of What Is This Factor Referred to as Love stands out, sounding hole, mournful and completely pitched for this present’s searing portrait of affection’s pathetic disappointments.