Tag Archives: Matthew Bourne

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Following on from the critically-acclaimed new work, The Red Shoes, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures delve deep into the back catalogue to 1997 to revive their much-loved production of Cinderella.

Re-set to World War 2, Cinderella and her shell-shocked, RAF pilot beau, meet and part during the horrors of The Blitz. The familiar elements of the story remain: the ‘wicked’ step-mother and (not so wicked) step-sisters (with a few step-brothers thrown into the mix), and while there’s no Fairy Godmother, there’s the (somewhat malevolent) platinum-haired Angel, whose sinister presence punctuates the action. Instead of facilitating the fairy-tale ending, it feels more like manipulation. The setting, and Bourne’s handling of it, perfectly encapsulates the fragility of love during wartime.

As ever, Lez Brotherston’s design is stunning, from bombed out buildings, the London Underground, the (ball substitute) evening at The Café de Paris, The Embankment to Platform 12 at Paddington Station, each element is breath-taking. The limited colour palette of greys, and blacks is darkly atmospheric and draw the eye to key features of the narrative: Cinders pure white dress, the red cape of a Red Cross nurse, it is a masterpiece of theatre design. It perfectly reflects Britain in its ‘darkest hour’. Paul Groothuis’ sound and Neil Austin’s lighting design only add to the magic.

Sergei Prokofiev’s haunting score has been edited down in Acts 1 and 2, but remains intact for Act 3. The music written contemporary to Bourne’s re-setting of the story adds a dimension of authenticity to the production. The two together a match made in heaven. It just feels right, and draws on Bourne’s own love for classic black and white movies and their music.

As with much of Bourne’s work there’s always humour to light the darkness. Including the foot-fetishist step brother, and a myriad of tiny details in both setting and action, that will raise a smile.

It’s hard to find fault in any aspect of this production, the dancers led by Ashley Shaw and New Adventures favourite Dominic North as Cinders and her Prince, are exquisite and unlike many Ballet companies, their acting ability and deftness at conveying the emotions of the story, not only match their dancing abilities but are head and shoulders above their contemporaries. Liam Mower as always leaves his mark as the Angel, as does Anjali Mehra as Sybil the exquisitely clad and coiffed, Step Mother.

With the now legendary Swan Lake to tour again next year, one can only wait with bated breath to see what new adventures are next for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. As ever, there are never enough superlatives for this incomparable company – simply unmissable.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Red Shoes – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

woman with red hair clutches pair of red ballet shoes

Taking Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948, Technicolor masterpiece of British cinema, The Red Shoes and turning it into a fully-fledged ballet, sounds like madness, but, in the hands of dance superstar Matthew Bourne, it’s an unmitigated triumph.

Along with young composer Julian Craster (Dominic North), aspiring dance star Vicky Page’s (Ashley Shaw) quiet determination takes her from the chorus line to centre stage when she impresses the Diaghilev-like ballet impresario Boris Lermontov. However, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for when she has to choose between love and her obsession for dance.

As ever in New Adventures work, this cinematic production is replete with tiny detail and humour (the cigarettes dangling from the dancers’ mouths and the principal dancers miming their way through rehearsals are particularly funny). Lez Brotherston’s clever set design, enhanced by Paule Constable’s atmospheric lighting, takes the action seamlessly from the elegant salons of London, to front/back stage of the ballet, the streets of Monte Carlo to a run-down East End music hall. The moving proscenium arch design is particularly clever and sweeps the action along at a break-neck speed.

Terry Davies’ orchestrations of the legendary work of Bernard Herrman (taken from The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Citizen Kane) are faultless and lend the piece the suspense it requires. There’s also clever work from Paul Groothuis, whose sound design amps up the atmosphere in the auditorium.

The dancers are universally outstanding, as ever, and the choreography detailed and utterly absorbing. There’s little more you can say save that this is an outstanding piece of dance theatre – more please.

Images by Johan Persson/Tristram Kenton


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Behind the Scenes as Scottish Ballet stage Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling

Back in 2013, GTB was invited to breakfast with Scottish Ballet as they went through their morning class before the matinee and evening performances of Matthew Bourne’s innovative take on La Sylphide Highland Fling.

Here, from the archives are some rehearsal videos and behind the scenes shots of this hard-working (6 days a week!) company. Excuse the ropey camera phone video quality. Such a fabulous show – set in Glasgow – it deserves another moment in the spotlight.

Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is not the usual tag line for a Scottish Ballet production but Matthew Bourne could never be accused of being your usual choreographer and Scottish Ballet continue to cement their reputation as a company with a clear artistic vision, breaking new ground by introducing  innovative modern works alongside their vast classical repertoire.

This piece marks the first time Matthew Bourne has ever allowed another company to perform one of his works, such is his control over his artistic vision. That said, the two seemed destined to come together, Bourne’s Glasgow-set ballet finally coming home to the city and Scotland’s national ballet company.

Inspired by the classic romantic work La Sylphide, Highland Fling  is an imaginative re-working by Bourne with his usual wry twist and trademark eye for detail.

Highland Fling follows the story of James, a restless young Glaswegian recently married to his devoted girlfriend Effie, but James’ addiction to excess and desire to break free of  the restrictions and expectations  placed on him by his environment finds him in the fateful company of a beguiling gothic fairy.  As his love for the strange and beautiful sylph becomes an obsession, he embarks on a fateful journey that takes him from the mean streets and nightclubs of Glasgow into a magical world beyond reality and reason.

highland fling


As our (anti)hero staggers on-set and slumps to the floor against a urinal in the toilet of a Glasgow nightclub we are in no doubt that this isn’t going to be your usual ballet, but what really sets it apart, along with all of Bourne’s work, is the stunning complexity and intricacy of the choreography and the sharpness and accuracy with which it is executed. Owen Thorne’s performance as James is a testament to Bourne’s particular method of working: this is a character with a history, a back-story and Thorne manages to deliver the choreography whilst perfectly conveying the conflicted Glaswegian tough-guy persona underneath. Bethany Kingsley-Garner as the sylph is utterly other-worldly, beautifully conveying this bewitching creature from another realm. Both are ably supported by an ensemble of characters instantly recognisable to any city dweller.

highland fling scottish ballet

Lez Brotherston’s set design is a character in itself. It has more tartan than a tin of shortbread, delivering a technicolour assault to the senses, but looking beyond the obvious, witty nods to the best and worst of Caledonia abound. Brotherston also manages to perfectly evoke the eerie world of the sylphs nestled amongst the debris and detritus of a wasteland in the shadow of the Glasgow highrises.

Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling, performed by the Scottish Ballet

Part of the beauty of this cautionary tale is its brevity, at just over 95 minutes it packs a visual and emotional punch that leaves you reeling and begging for more.

highland fling scottish ballet kilt -4 matthew bourne highland fling


REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Considered by many the most audience conscious of artists, credit must undoubtedly go to Matthew Bourne for his groundbreaking work, his originality of vision, and for the popularization of ballet among the masses. Indeed, the packed house at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal is a testament to that.

For this production Sleeping Beauty, Bourne returns to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete his trio of the composer’s ballet masterworks that started in 1992 with Nutcracker! and, most famously, in 1995, with the international hit Swan Lake.

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Charles Perrault’s timeless fairy tale, about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years, was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the Christening of Aurora, the story’s heroine, in the year of the ballet’s first performance; the height of the Fin-de-Siècle period when fairies, vampires and decadence fed the gothic imagination. Here, the traditional tale of good versus evil is turned on its head to create a supernaturally tinged, time-travelling love story.

The tone is set even before the curtain rises: the vine-covered title superimposed on the curtain, takes us instantly to the pages of a Grimm fairy tale. The music starts and the legend Once upon a time… appears to chuckles of recognition from the audience. We are then taken on a mesmerising journey in this Gothic re-telling of the familiar tale.

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Visually stunning, even more so than Bourne’s previous works, this is ballet as you want it to be – the sets and costumes in themselves evoking an emotional response from the audience, the beautiful, familiar music of Tchaikovsky, the perfect fairy-tale score. The choreography too is innovative, unlike traditional ballet companies, Bourne never feels constrained to stick to one particular style. Instead, each scene is imbued with a unique character and appropriate movement vocabulary. And to Bourne’s credit there is never an indulgent moment, every step sharply drives the plot.

This is a picture book perfect re-telling of the tale – full of visual delights and gasp-inducing moments and each member of this company is as talented and captivating as the other. New Adventures are the best of the best, and this is a production not to be missed. Sheer theatrical perfection. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Runs until 21 November 2015 | Images: Simon Annand/Johan Persson

*This review was originally written for the Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/sleeping-beauty-theatre-royal-glasgow/

FEATURE: A month in the life of Glasgow Theatre Blog

I’ve recently had a few conversations both in person and with fellow theatre bloggers asking what a typical month is in the life of the blog. So with that in mind here is a typical month – this month in fact, a chronological record of the who, what, where and how of June 2015.

Monday 1st June

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Launch of Ambassadors Theatre Group autumn season for their Glasgow Theatres.


Glasgow’s Theatre Royal

As always from ATG Glasgow, a well thought out overview of the season to come. Compered by Glasgow favourite Des Clarke with guest appearances/performances from among others: Nigel Havers and Christine Kavanagh enacting a scene from The Importance of Being Earnest, the cast of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (silver fox Michael Praed getting the ladies of a certain age swooning with his crooning), some music and dance from Britain’s Got Bhangra, live interviews with Matthew Bourne on the return of Sleeping Beauty and Sally Bankes on East is East, touring fresh from its run in the Trafalgar Transformed season as well as video features from shows such as Love Me Tender and the first live glimpse of this year’s King’s panto cast.

Tuesday 2nd June 

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland


Ray Quinn and Louise Dearman in Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland

A surprising turn from Ray Quinn fleet-footed and crooning his way through the songs of Judy Garland – ably helped along by ever-reliable West End leading lady Louise Dearman. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft who would have been better served telling anecdotes about her superstar mother rather than strangling her greatest hits.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/04/review-judy-the-songbook-of-judy-garland-theatre-royal-glasgow/

Wednesday 3rd June

King’s Theatre, Glasgow


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Joe Pasquale as King Arthur in Spamalot

It was Joe Pasquale’s son Joe Tracini who was the star of the show – fantastic comic timing and some seriously groovy moves showed that there’s life and laughs in this old dog yet.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/06/review-spamalot-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Friday 5th June

City Halls, Glasgow

Friday Night is Music Night

city halls bbc music day

A truly stellar cast lined up to mark the finale of the BBC’s first ever music day,representing the spectrum of music on offer from our national broadcaster: Jamie Cullum, Lulu, Deacon Blue, Noah Stewart, Jack Liebeck, Catrin Finch, Jaz Dhami and Claire Hastings presented a world class evening of entertainment.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/08/review-friday-night-is-music-night-bbc-music-day-concert-city-halls-glasgow/

Saturday 6th June

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Sunset Boulevard


John Kielty and Juliet Cadzow in Sunset Boulevard

Billy Wilder’s classic movie condensed into a perfect one hour gem. All that and a pie and a pint thrown into the ticket price – what mor could you want?

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/07/review-sunset-boulevard-oran-mor-glasgow/

Tuesday 9th June

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Puttin’ on the Ritz


Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor – Puttin’ on the Ritz

More a cruise ship review than full-blown theatre show but entertaining none the less.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/12/review-puttin-on-the-ritz-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Thursday 11th June

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow


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The best of the best of musical theatre students from the Dance School of Scotland give a glimpse at the future stars of Scottish theatre in their flawless production of Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak’s hippy classic Godspell.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/14/review-godspell-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

Friday 12th June

Adelaide’s Glasgow

The Mad Props Big Fat Musical Theatre Quiz and Concert of the Year

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Saturday 13th June

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man



The master of British dance Matthew Bourne brought his revived classic The Car Man to Edinburgh for one week – and boy what a show – perfect was the only word for it.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/14/review-matthew-bournes-the-car-man-festival-theatre-edinburgh/

Sunday 14th June

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

The Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland



The critics decide on the best home-grown theatre talent of the year, also a chance for the critics to get their moment in the spotlight which they grabbed with both hands. This year’s big winner was the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.

Full list of winners: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/14/news-2015-cats-awards-winners-a-triumphant-year-for-lyceumtheatre/

Monday 15th June

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The Producers

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It was the comics who took centre stage in Mel Brooks’ madcap musical The Producers. Ross Noble a demonic Franz Liebkind and Jason Manford got to showcase his under used singing skills.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/18/review-the-producers-theatre-royal-glasgow/

Tuesday 16th June

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Calamity Jane

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A stand-out performance from Tom Lister as Wild Bill Hickcok saved this overly-long show.The Glasgow audience loved it from the first notes though.

Review: https://glasgowtheatreblog.com/2015/06/19/review-calamity-jane-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Thursday 18th June

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall,

The Overtones



An unexpected treat – sharp harmonies and even sharper moves, they worked their socks off delivering hit after hit after hit. Also their fans must rank among the most vocal I’ve ever encountered.

Monday 22nd June

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Twelve Angry Men


A tremendous play and the perfect ensemble piece. A slew of powerhouse performances which had the audience in the palm of its hand from curtain rise to fall.

Tuesday 23rd June

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels


No better on second viewing – a hugely talented cast who performed their socks off but their talent was wasted in this lacklustre excuse for a musical.

Wednesday 24th June

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Idina Menzel

idina menzel uk tour glasgow

Queen Idina came to Glasgow and wowed the crowd – “I’m loopy”, she cried, and you couldn’t deny it as she rolled on the floor covered in gold tattoos during a rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep”. Crazy as a box of frogs but bloody brilliant none the less.

This is just some of the stuff I’ve seen – there were a few shows that I saw and didn’t review too, some CD/DVD reviews as well, there were also listings and news entries and other bits of weekly blog admin too – I couldn’t begin to guess the actual hours in between spent actually writing the reviews. Anyway here’s to the next one…

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Despite 15 years passing since its premiere, Matthew Bourne’s boundary pushing The Car Man is still managing to captivate, enthrall and excite audiences around the globe.


Taking as its inspiration James M. Cain’s classic novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, and set to Rodion Shchedrin’s Bolshoi Ballet version of George Bizet’s Carmen (with additional music composed by Terry Davies) The Car Man is renowned for its no holds barred portrayal of sex, violence and homoeroticism and I’m glad to report, it has lost none of its power down the years.

matthew bourne car man

It’s the early 60’s in small town Harmony, opportunistic drifter Luca (Tim Hodges) rolls into town and changes the lives of everyone he meets. First seducing Lana (Ashley Shaw) the local garage owner’s young wife, then the timid and much picked upon Angelo (Liam Mower), he incites and inspires lust and jealousy in equal measure eventually resulting in murder, miscarriage of justice and finally revenge.

car man tour matthew bourneThe sweltering heat of the setting, story line and the sensual movement pervades the auditorium. If this doesn’t leave you hot under the collar then I’m not sure what would. There is full-frontal male nudity and frank portrayals of sex throughout but it is oh so skilfully done, never gratuitous and at all times essential to the plot.

the car man matthe bourneThe pacing as well as the footwork is perfect, the story line is driven along at a blinding pace and the choreography captivating and impeccably executed throughout. It is a visual feast scenically as well as choreographically, Lez Brotherston’s inventive transforming set and its complementary lighting from Chris Davey are wonderfully evocative.

The Car Man remains a sizzling hot sensation which still excites. Matthew Bourne really can do no wrong.

REVIEW: Edward Scissorhands – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by www.thepublicreviews.com

Matthew Bourne’s contemporary ballet of Tim Burton’s much-loved movie Edward Scissorhands has been re-set to the 1950’s in this breathtaking version.

Edward2014JP-08061- Dominic North as EdwardThe storyline follows many of the main plot themes of the 1990 film but it is by no means slavish to the original source material. Bourne has, for example, extended the prologue giving us more depth to the back-story of Edward. The work opens on a superbly atmospheric and arresting vision of Frankenstein-like gothic horror where Edward is created, but it goes on to tell the same tale of the eccentric inventor whose son has been fatally electrocuted during a lightning storm and who creates a replacement; a boy with scissors for hands. When Edward is left alone after his father is killed by local thugs, he ventures into town where he has to fight small-town prejudice and find his place in a superficial world.


This modern fairy tale speaks powerfully of how we treat those who are different to ourselves and how quickly tolerance and acceptance dry up and old prejudices return to the surface at the first hint of trouble. Indeed it shines a timely light on our current treatment of those from outside who choose to make this country their own.

Edward2014JP-03967 - Dominic North as Edward

In a superb central performance, Dominic North magnificently registers Edward’s heartbreaking vulnerability as well as maintaining a commanding and charismatic presence throughout. There are performances of the highest order everywhere you look too, indeed the whole production is awash with exquisite tiny detail that absolutely delights: the dancing topiary, the ice-sculpting and Edward’s astounding hairdressing skills to name a few.


The movement sequences, set to an absolutely stunning score by Terry Davies and Danny Elfman are comparatively short and keep interest levels high throughout and there’s a pleasing mix of original and inventive styles.


Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous set design has been heavily influenced by classic 50’s-set movies; Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married spring to mind, making this a visually entrancing, finely-detailed delight.


The sell-out crowd were on their feet as one at the end, sniffling back tears and whooping and hollering their appreciation, there’s absolutely no doubt Matthew Bourne and his company know how to give an audience exactly what it wants.


The word magical is liberally bandied around these days, but this beautifully executed, beguiling and touching tale deserves to be labelled so. Vivid, vibrant and utterly spellbinding to the last, this hard to fault production is yet another unalloyed triumph for New Adventures.

5 STARS * * * * *

Photographs by Johan Persson

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies -Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Regular readers of this blog will know that my love for the work of Matthew Bourne and his company New Adventures knows no bounds. But at first glance William Golding’s dystopian masterpiece Lord of the Flies doesn’t seem like material ripe for adaptation as a dance work. It is testament to the vision of New Adventures and Re:Bourne that Golding’s powerful and affecting work loses none of its ability to shock and awe.

Now back on the stage where the whole new adventure began, this emotive adaptation does full justice to Golding’s narrative: raw, visceral and genuinely moving, it is a theatrical tour de force, brilliantly accompanied by Lez Brotherston’s inventive set and Paul Groothuis eardrum pounding, primitive sound design.

The action is transferred from deserted island to deserted theatre. A group of schoolboys find themselves abandoned: with no adults around they start to make their own rules and create their own civilisation, before order breaks down with tragic consequences.

Bourne’s professional company are joined seamlessly by young talent from the Greater Glasgow area and the combination brings these legendary characters to life in electrifying fashion. Intense, ferocious and utterly spell-binding it will take you on a journey which will leave you emotionally wrung out by the end.

A Five Star Gem.

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE. 15-12-20095*****

Once in a while a production comes along that restores your faith in theatre. For me Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is that show.

Since the original production in 1995, Swan Lake has been breaking records the world over (it is both the longest running ballet in both the West End and Broadway). Now firmly established as a modern classic it returns to Glasgow with a bang at the King’s Theatre this week.

1655987_690164987702206_2014433079_nUsing Tchaikovsky’s original score and the broad plot outline, the focus is redirected from Odette/Odile to the the Prince. Doomed to a life of royal duty, spoiled and saddled with a distant, un-loving mother (with whom he has a mummy fixation), he tries to find his feet in the world: dating unsuitable women, drinking heavily and struggling with his sexuality. He longs desperately for liberty and love. Bourne’s imaginative take injects a vitality, freshness and relevance to the story along with his trademark wit.

1939766_690165437702161_2012253257_nEnhanced by the fiercely imaginative design and staging by Lez Brotherston the production remains (19 years later) superbly atmospheric and brilliantly inventive. The action moving swiftly from palace to opera house to sleezy bar to ballroom with ease. There are visual gags and artistic treats throughout but to go into detail would spoil the surprise.


1924665_690686037650101_1044259240_nAt first shadowy fragments at the edge of his consciousness, it takes until Act 2 for the now famous male corps de ballet to appear to the Prince. The atmosphere is tangible – you can feel the anticipation grow as we edge closer to the arrival of the swans. Explosive, exhilerating and electrifying – they do not disappoint. The striking sequences of movement are finely detailed, dangerously sexual and utterly spine-tingling.


1689010_691258464259525_1985150737_nThe superb central performance by Chris Trenfield as The Swan/The Stranger is simply stunning: strong, sensual, masculine and mesmeric. Liam Mower is in turn delicately sensitive and conflicted as the Prince.


1779039_691771810874857_1350535719_nHeard at the interval “I never want to see a bunch of women tottering around in tutus in Swan lake again”, I can only agree – Bourne leaves you in no doubt that this is how Swan Lake really should be. He also goes some way to redressing the imbalance in ballet: it is a rare treat to see the physicality and artistry of male dancers showcased like this.

Utterly moving and exhilerating it is a rare treat for the soul.

The global phenomenon is still as radical, riveting and richly crafted as it ever was and judging by the thunderous applause and standing ovation from the sell-out audience the public can’t get enough.

This is a work that truly deserves to be called a masterpiece.

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