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Matthew Bourne's The Midnight Bell - Cheltenham Everyman REVIEW

Matthew Bourne’s latest project takes us into the under-belly of 1930s London life; following ordinary people doing relatively ordinary things. What shines is how clearly the stories are told before your eyes.

It's so easy to get so lost in each person's story. The 10 lost and lonely hearts react to each other in such relatable and believable ways, slowly developing 6 mostly failing relationships.

The characters are partly plucked from Matthew Bourne’s mind and partly inspired by the novelist Patrick Hamilton’s book, The Midnight Bell. This particular book explores the tavern where the local lonely-hearts club gather to play out their lovelorn affairs of the heart.

The choreography revolves around the long nights of drinking and debauchery. Expect lots of partner work with the centre of gravity thrown all around as the dancers spiral in and out of each other. The recurring motif of swigging booze becomes a large part of the choreography and storytelling.

Each movement oozes the trauma each character is experiencing so strongly that you begin to feel it yourself. This is where Bourne never fails. He makes you feel exactly what he aims for by picking the exact movement that explains a feeling without a single sound.

The minimal set features metal fencing and light up signs to give hints to the location. There is also a large wooden bar and park bench which are well-utilised in many scenes.

The contemporary score by Terry Davies is as hypnotic as the choreography, with lower notes balanced by sweet violin lines. This is teamed with archive song recordings from the 1930s to make up the soundtrack.

This latest production is Bourne’s first fully devised piece in 20 years and it doesn’t disappoint. Filled with hangovers and hook ups, The Midnight Bell welcomes you into the smoke-filled hazy bars as well as the beautifully complex minds of the well-developed characters. And once you’ve entered, you won’t want to leave.

The Midnight Bell is on tour until November 27.

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