The TheatreguideLondon Review
Matthew Bourne's dance-drama, first seen briefly at the National last year, returns for an extended run, and it is to be seen.
Inspired by Robin Maugham's novel The Servant, and particularly by the 1963 Losey-Pinter film of it, Bourne tells the story of a sinister valet who exploits his employer's weakness to make him so dependent that their positions are effectively reversed.
Bourne does it all in dance, with the added device of dividing all the main characters - master, servant, classy girlfriend, seductive housemaid, blokeish friend - among three dancers each, so that scenes are duplicated and mirrored in telling ways.
That's not as confusing or precious as it may sound. Sometimes the three sets of characters mirror each other, but more often they play subtle variations on a scene, deepening its texture.
Three pairs of characters might play out very different scenes of eroticism or menace at the same time, with the overall effect being intensified by the variations. Early in the evening, for example, one valet dresses his totally passive master while another undresses his, comically but also chillingly conveying the beginnings of a fatal dependency.
And the choreography is good - always exciting, beautiful or evocative to watch, always surprising us with a movement or pattern that is either a delight in itself or a telling dramatic effect.
Bourne's vocabulary is drawn from theatre and jazz dance, and set to a blues-flavoured score by Terry Davies. While the moods and contexts are very different, the predecessors it is most likely to remind you of are Jerome Robbins' dances for West Side Story.
With more than a dozen dancers in the key roles, all of them taking turns holding our attention, I can't single out any for special praise. But I must take note that they are all excellent dance actors, using their faces and movements to create character and convey thought and emotion in ways many dancers can't.
I can well believe that this work will someday take its place in the regular repertory of classical dance companies around the world. Meanwhile, anyone who loves dance or drama will want to see it now.
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