- Monday, 16 July 2012
PLAY WITHOUT WORDS
Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Matthew Bourne’s erotic swinging 60’s psychodrama premiered at the National Theatre in 2002 and is, as the title says, wordless story telling.
A rich young bachelor buys a house in Chelsea and employs a sinister manservant, who, dispatches his fiancée and then, with the aid, of a sexy housemaid, sets about corrupting him.
The bachelor and the maid end up having sex on the kitchen table.
You probably saw the film. The scenario is based on Joseph Losey’s 1963 film, scripted by Harold Pinter and starring Dirk Bogarde as manservant, James Fox as the aristocrat, Wendy Craig as the fiancée and Sarah Miles as the sluttish maid.
Bourne loves the movies and there are references to other films, too. His gimmick is each leading role is played by three different dancer-actors simultaneously, each showing different facets and images in their relationships with the other characters.
The alternative versions make the power games and changing relationship between master and servant all the more interesting. Each set of dancer-actors are dressed identically; there is never any difficulty in knowing what is going on.
The action is choreographed but not danced. There are no opportunities for big ensembles and for dance solos and duets. It is all narrative dancing to a terrific Jazz score by Terry Davies.
The revival is recreated with two of the original cast, Saranne Curtin and Richard Winsor, and a new generation of trained dancers who can also act. There is a very amusing revue sequence, when two menservants dress and undress two masters at the same time.
Lez Brotherston’s set is a melange of familiar London sites: Big Ben, Post Office Tower, Centre Point, a Chelsea square, Soho strip clubs, billboards, two red letter-boxes, a red-Decker bus and a wrought-iron entrance to an underground (or is it a public lavatory or a night club?)
Play Without Words will appeal to the sophisticated theatregoer.