Why I Love… Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne has utterly changed the landscape of dance forever.

The Telegraph

As a child, I was very lucky to have been regularly taken to the theatre by my parents – mostly to dance. Ballet was one of my first loves, with my Mum citing Alice in Wonderland in particular – even though I have no memory of this.

In 1993 we went to see Nutcracker! in its first revival at Sadler’s Wells at Christmas (Bourne productions are now a Christmas staple at Sadler’s Wells). I was five. I sadly have no memory of this first foray into Bourne’s world but I do remember (bits) of seeing The Car Man at the Old Vic in 2000. I was twelve and much of the context of the show passed me by but, I loved it. The Car Man is one of Bourne’s most filmic dance works. Heavily inspired by film noir and using The Postman Always Rings Twice as inspiration. Of course, this I have learnt and appreciated in later years.

Now, in a perfect story the tale would tell how I sought out his every show since then. I wish. I was TWELVE. My school did regular West End musical trips and I still went to ballet performances so I wasn’t culturally bankrupt but Bourne wasn’t fully on my radar. Until I re-saw Nutcracker! in 2003. And then again on its tour a few months later. Between these performances Nutcracker! was filmed and broadcast on the BBC and our faithful VHS recorder put up with my incessant viewings. Then, I became obsessed.

So, I really wanted to use an image of Dawn French introducing the BBC broadcast of Nutcracker! but I couldn’t find one. So, instead, have Clara in her beautiful polka dot dress and the super cool Cupids.

After that I finally saw Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells the following year (another Christmas Bourne), with Highland Fling in the March and Edward Scissorhands the next Christmas. Dorian Gray premiered in 2008 and I diligently went. With my Nan. I strongly recommend not seeing Dorian Gray with your Nan. Bit awkward.

This is just a glimpse of Dorian Gray. Remember – I watched this with my Nan. Do not forget that.

That Christmas I introduced some friends to Edward Scissorhands (after previously taking ‘new to dance’ friends to Swan Lake). I think that outside of the arty theatre world Matthew Bourne isn’t as well known as he should be. Or known as the one who did the ‘all male Swan Lake‘. That is not only an incorrect unfair assessment but it also means that some audience members are instantly cut off.

Two Christmases ago brought the revival of Cinderella and having finally seen Play Without Words at its current Sadler’s Wells revival (the first since its National Theatre performances in 2002) I have seen all of Bourne’s productions, excluding the early Adventures in Motion Pictures works.

World War II. 1940s fashion! Who could hate? It’s all so elegant.

Who knew an oversized cricket jumper with 60s hair could be so sexy? Lez Brotherston. That’s who.

This was probably a poor introduction to Bourne so I say this by way of an apology:

  1. Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells this Christmas. New production. Go!
  2. Nutcracker!, The Car Man and Swan Lake are all on DVD. Watch!
  3. Here are some samples of his work. Enjoy!

This clip is a little longer than the others but I wanted to include a clip to show that there’s more to Swan Lake than just male swans.

I’ll probably write more on individual Bourne works or concentrating on design or something so wait…possibly in fear.

Sadler’s Wells. 4th Dec – 26th Jan. GO!

I sat awestruck from start to finish – something I don’t think I have ever experienced in a theatre before. It was beautiful, funny and moving.

Julie Walters

S x


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