Review: Play Without Words (Curve, Leicester)
Sexy, stylish and stunning – Matthew Bourne’s revival of his decade-old production has lost none of its original appeal.
It’s a truly-talented bunch of dancers who can act this well and get across a multitude of emotion, motivation and justification without a scrap of dialogue. And with each character played in duplicate or triplicate simultaneously, it’s a fascinating concept which absolutely works; every facial expression, each physical movement varying slightly from one dancer to the next yet still portraying the same emotion or reaction.
No, the concept won’t be to everyone’s taste, and it relies on the audience’s ability to be open-minded and simply accept what is being seen. But in doing so, you get double and triple the pay-off by seeing the nuances that different performers bring to the same role at the same time.
Lez Brotherston’s imposing set maximises the vast Curve space with 1963 London – from Chelsea apartments and Big Ben to seedy Soho nightclub, alongside exquisite costumes which perfectly evoke the era.
Based on the 1963 film The Servant, the piece explores the sexual revolution of the sixties, the class divide, equality and liberation, the “good girls” who remain chaste and the “bad girls” who explore their physical desires. We wonder who’s really in charge and who’s the most restricted, master or servant, as roles become reversed and power shifts.
But what director and choreographer Bourne does so accurately and brilliantly is get to the crux of how men and women feel about each other; whether sexually repressed, churning with anticipation or consumed by lust.
Dancers Richard Winsor and Saranne Curtin (both of whom helped create the original production) return for this short revival, both oozing class and sensuality in compelling performances. But there’s not a poor performance among the dozen dancers.
It’s all supported and complemented by Terry Davies’ original jazz score, played live each night by an exceptional five-piece band, the live music adding an extra raw element into the potent mix.
It’s a classy piece with witty choreography, unusual concept and the constant bubbling of erotic tension. As I said, sexy, stylish, stunning.
* Play Without Words is at Leicester Curve until July 7; Sadlers Wells, London, from July 12 to August 5; Norwich Theatre Royal from August 7 to 11.