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'Play Without Words'

The best of all possible worlds

by Dani Crawford

December 31, 2003 -- The National Theatre, London.

Matthew Bourne’s "Play Without Words" takes the best of three worlds – dance, theatre and film and weaves them into a fine tuned work of art that is smashingly clever and sharp, not to mention sexy, humorous and sometimes dark. Terry Davies’ jazzy score fits every moment like a glove and Lez Brotherston once again dazzles and shows off why he’s been nominated and won so many awards for his designs.

Bourne’s dancers cannot be applauded enough. All combine their individual talents and personalities to bring to life Matthew’s imaginative choreography and keen ability to tell a story on many different levels.  The same cast from last year is back with one exception. I, of course, would have given anything to see Will Kemp as Anthony. But Sam Archer, who came in to fill the spot Kemp was in last year, was just out and out fabulous. His up-tight, thin-lipped, repressed Anthony was simply marvelous. The guy was flawless and for me, just barely edged out Richard Winsor and Ewan Wardrop’s own unique and captivating Anthonys.

Nobody can do an evil glint or wolfish grin like Scott Ambler. His Prentice along with Eddie Nixon’s sneaky, smirky version were delicious. But it was Steve Kirkham’s snobby, nose in the air, prickly Prentice that just grabbed me. He was SO the affected servant, but mind you, not over the top with it. It was a very smooth, positively spot on performance. He also played an Andy Warhol look-alike character in the party scene with this dreadful green suit and fey scarf. Everything he did in that scene from checking himself in the mirror to letting loose frightfully on the dance floor left me with tears in my eyes from laughing. He was superb.

Speight was played with a decadently knavish and dangerous bite by Wardrop and Nixon, but Alan Vincent just has bad-to-the-bone bad boy down to an art form and his Speight was hard to resist.

I couldn’t possibly choose between the three Glenda’s, Saranne Curtin, Michela Meazza and Emily Piercy, as they all swooped in perfectly with their very cool keep it all together Audrey Hepburn/Grace Kelly style....until their love lives fell apart. Belinda Lee Chapman’s sex kitten housemaid matched to Valentina Formenti’s much more coldhearted version, were both tantalizing.

"Play Without Words" is like Hitchcock’s "Rear Window." You feel like you are sitting across the way in your home – peeking into the neighbor’s windows. And what you see is far more than you ever bargained for in return. You also find you've come away an addicted voyeur to those lives and you can't help but want to come back and peek some more.

In my opinion, this is by far Matthew Bourne’s best work to date. I hope he will be able to do another small scale production like this again; although where he would fit it in, I’ve no clue. 2006? No matter. With his track record for inventive, refreshing and thoroughly entertaining productions, anything he does will be well worth the wait ...just as it is well worth flying across the ocean to see.

Edited by Jeff.

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