Review: Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words at Theatre Royal Norwich

From the outset of Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words, the atmosphere drips off the stage.

A kaleidoscopic jazz lust dream, this dance-ballet-play charts the story of a young couple in an increasingly swinging sixties.

With each character played by multiple dancers, the action literally swirls around the stage and an impressive rotating central staircase – the centrepiece of Lez Brotherston's iconic set of London landmarks.

The dance is intimate, sexual and intriguing, as improvised and as regulated as the best jazz. The performers duplicate, reinforce and deviate as sexual tensions between the engaged central couple, their servants, and a confident, over-amorous old friend spills out across both Soho and the more respectable corners of the capital.

Terry Davies's score, performed live by a talented quintet led by Michael Haslam, and its ever present rumbling of a sneering trumpet is evocative and complex.

This is less bombastic, less hyper-real than most of choreographer Matthew Bourne's oeuvre; more delicate, more sad and more human.

Anticipated love is felt keenly, a gasp mid-tryst is heard throughout the auditorium, betrayal and distrust flashed in pulsing lights, beating drums and theatrical fights.

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This is a perfect sultry and sophisticated midsummer night's dream.

Play Without Words continues at the Theatre Royal Norwich nightly until Saturday with matinees on Thursday and Saturday.

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