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The Midnight Bell Review

"a masterclass of storytelling through movement"

1930's Soho is the setting for the latest production by legendary choreographer Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures Company.

The scene is set before the auditoria lights dim as the staging brilliantly designed by Bourne's long-term collaborator Lez Brotherston. It's dark and gloomy and smoke fills the air. You are instantly taken to Soho and the places in the piece which are mostly established through minimal props and sublime lighting designed by Paule Constable. 

The company of The Midnight Bell. Photo by Johan Persson.

The piece has been inspired by the novels of Patrick Hamilton and brings 10 despondent and lonely characters who are connected through the drinking establishment, The Midnight Bell, they all inhabit. The tale of humans looking for connection after the real life situation we've all been through makes the piece land slightly differently than it could have without the COVID pandemic. 

The characters are expertly brought to life by the outstanding company of talented dancers. It's easy to distinguish who is who, although the programme notes certainly help. As you may expect, the movement is mesmerising. The world class dancers make every movement look fluid and effortless as they glide around the stage in a masterclass of storytelling through movement.

The relationships are superbly captured. Be that Michela Meazza's lonely spinster who couples with Glenn Graham's cad character who ends up stealing her money as they spend a night together in a sleazy hotel room or Bryony Harrison's barmaid and who reluctantly accepts an marriage proposal by a regular customer played by Reece Causton.

The most powerful relationship comes between Liam Mower's West End chorus boy and Andrew Monaghan's new customer. The developing homosexual relationship in a time when such a thing was a punishable crime is portrayed excellently by the pair particularly so in the second act.

Liam Mower and Andrew Monaghan. Photo by Johan Persson.

The soundtrack for the piece is provided by another long-term Bourne collaborator in Terry Davies and his soundscape fits the time perfectly and interspersed with songs from the period that are lip-synched by the performers (my Dad found it so convincing that at the interval he thought the characters were really singing). 

Personally for myself, this was my first experience of a Matthew Bourne production and the first half did feel a little clunky but the second act was tremendous as the characters felt more established and the story telling felt easier. The Midnight Bell provides 2 hours of the highest quality narratively driven dance, its melancholic window in these 10 characters lives and it's a most enjoyable watch.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Midnight Bell plays at Curve until Saturday 16th October with tickets available from The tour of the production continues until 27th November visit The New Adventures website for full tour dates

Paris Fitzpatrick and Bryony Wood. Photo by Johan Persson.

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