Play Without Words

JOHN LAWSON Norwich Theatre Royal

JOHN LAWSON

Words cannot express the talent of a storyteller who can lock an audience in the thrall of a tale of class, the changing face of society and sexual tension for almost 90 minutes.

So legendary choreographer Matthew Bourne lets the bodies of his performers do the talking in his latest break with dance convention.

Ever since bursting on to the world stage with his all-male Swan Lake, Bourne has gone on pushing back boundaries.

And in this National Theatre production, based on the 1960s' film classic The Servant, there is high drama in every step, every movement and every glance.

It's all multiplied to the power of three, with each character being played by three performers simultaneously as the story unfolds of the servants who subvert the privileged lifestyle of their employers, not merely challenging the validity of the class system in 1960s' Britain but physically demolishing its perpetrators.

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Scheming butler Prentice crushes the silver-spoon lifestyle of Anthony and his snooty fiancée Glenda and lays the seeds of their wholly “unsuitable” affairs with a maid and a streetwise bit of rough, while himself emerging wholly unscathed to head off to do the same to his next employee. The shift in power as the story unfolds is tangible.

Terry Davies's moody score, performed by a five-piece band who positively smoke in the pit, and designer Lez Brotherston's wonderful costumes perfectly capture the spirit of the age on a twisting, turning, multi-layered set.

And while being wrapped up in the drama, don't miss some fabulous dance set pieces, including the dress/undress sequence and the moment when a hung-over Anthony tries to bring swirling triple-vision into focus.

t The show continues nightly until Saturday March 20 with matinees on Thursday and Saturday. Box office: 01603 630000.

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