REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's The Midnight Bell, York Theatre Royal, Thursday, September 30

SOMEWHERE in a smoggy, damp, London in the 1930s, a group of lonely hearts gather, looking for love and connection.

This is the setting for acclaimed choreographer Matthew Bourne's latest work, The Midnight Bell.

Based on the novels of Patrick Hamilton, Bourne takes us into the underbelly of London life, where pickpockets mix with prostitutes and troubled souls seek solace - often through the whiskey glass, and around the bar of their local pub, The Midnight Bell.

We meet the characters in bedsit-land. From the off, each has a drink in one hand while reaching out for another unhappy soul with the other one.
Such is the cleverness at work here that within minutes of the curtain rising, we are engrossed in each character - following their every move across the stage, in and out of each other's lives - and beds.

Each dancer has their own story, and perhaps none is more gripping than the 'forbidden' love of two men who meet at The Midnight Bell and begin a romance.

York Press: The cast gather at their local, The Midnight BellThe cast gather at their local, The Midnight Bell

The era is brilliantly evoked through costume, hair and make-up, but in the music too. The soundtrack is fantastic, alternating between songs from the era such as the Gershwins' The Man I Love and Berlin's Maybe It's Because I Love You Too Much (amusingly mimed by the dancers), with a wonderful score full of tension and emotion by Terry Davies.

An edgy capital at night is brought to life by an inspired set, where window panes hang from the ceiling next to neon signs reading 'Rooms', or 'Cinema' or 'Members Only Bar'. A screen behind the stage shows rooftops against a dark, cloudy sky. 

York Press: Looking for love in The Midnight BellLooking for love in The Midnight Bell

We hear rain, see lightning light up the sky, and are even exposed to high-pitch screeching so we can empathise with one of the characters, most likely suffering shellshock from the First World War.
There is humour among the sadness, as well as some serious sensuality in the dance scenes.

Telling a story through movement alone harks back to the time of silent movies and the art of mime.

As time was called on The Midnight Bell, the audience - practically a full house - roared their applause.

York Press: On stage - The Midnight Bell by Matthew BourneOn stage - The Midnight Bell by Matthew Bourne

Bourne, who was at the theatre for the performance, is taking the show on an autumn tour and looks like having another huge hit on his hands.

The Midnight Bell is running at York Theatre Royal until Saturday. For tickets, visit: