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Bourne, Matthew (b. 1960)  
page: 1  2  

Additionally, Bourne made the swans figments of the prince's imagination rather than victims of a sorcerer's enchantment. By doing so, he turned the ballet's fanciful plot into a moral struggle between repression and freedom. Ultimately, the ballet became, as Bourne himself explained, "about someone who needs, in the most basic and simple way, to be held."

When Bourne's Swan Lake played in New York, the show's publicists decided to downplay the homoerotic elements in the production, and instead stressed the universality of the work. The campaign had an adverse effect in the gay press, however, which accused Bourne of disowning the same-sex erotics in his work. Bourne later admitted he felt he had been pushed to deny the show's gay content to the media.

Swan Lake became Bourne's most critically and commercially successful show to date. The ballet played for six months on London's West End, unprecedented for a ballet, and won an Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 1996. Three years later the show was produced on Broadway. The show was nominated for five Tony Awards and won three, including two for Bourne himself for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreographer.

Bourne's next project was Cinderella (1997), set during the London Blitz of 1940. The production was another success for Bourne and his dance company, although it was not received as passionately as his Swan Lake.

The Car Man and Play Without Words

In 2000, Bourne created The Car Man, a production that drew equally for inspiration from Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen and the plot of Tay Garnett's 1946 film noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin's "Carmen Suite," a symphonic adaptation of Bizet's music, served as the basis for the score, with additional jazz-inflected music by Terry Davies. The setting was relocated from a cigarette factory in nineteenth-century Spain to an auto repair garage in a small town in the American Midwest circa 1960. Bourne transformed the gypsy seductress of Carmen into a handsome, enigmatic drifter named Luca.

The Car Man begins with Luca arriving at the small town and quickly seducing Lana (a sly nod to the actress Lana Turner who starred in The Postman Always Rings Twice), the sexy, unfulfilled wife of the garage's owner. Luca also seduces Angelo, a shy gas station attendant, in a steamy pas de deux punctuated with a dramatic kiss between the two men.

The production became another critical success for Bourne. As a review in The Spectator noted, "The Car Man is a superbly balanced, eye-grabbing combination of first-rate choreography, effectively constructed drama and sheer entertainment."

The show was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 2001.

In 2002, Bourne and Katharine Dore, AMP's producer, parted ways. Bourne went on to form a new company, which he called New Adventure. The company's first work was the acclaimed piece Play Without Words.

Based on Joseph Losey's classic film The Servant (1963), with a fiercely acerbic script by Harold Pinter, Play Without Words tells the story, strictly through movement and music, of an upper-class young man who is gradually enslaved and sexually humiliated by his sinister, and apparently bisexual, manservant.

In order to amplify the action, and to give unexpected depth and volume to the movement, Bourne had each of the show's main characters played by two or three dancers at the same time. "You may have one couple downstage doing what's really happening," Bourne explained. "And behind them, another couple, doing what they're thinking. And then you have another couple doing what they did a half-hour later."

Play Without Words won an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Bourne won for Best Theatre Choreographer in 2003.

In addition to his deconstructed classics and original productions, Bourne has recently choreographed British revivals of such mainstream musicals as Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady (2001) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific (2001). In 2004, he co-directed with Richard Eyre and served as choreographer for a new stage version of Mary Poppins, and is working on a full-length dance version of the 1990 Tim Burton film Edward Scissorhands.

Bourne resides in North London with his partner since 1995, the choreographer/dancer Arthur Pita.

Craig Kaczorowski

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Acocella, Joan. "Class Act." The New Yorker (April 4, 2005): 96.

Dunning, Jennifer. "'Swan Lake': Is It Theater or Dance, Gay or Straight?" New York Times (November 1, 1998): 2.40.

Green, Jesse. "Matthew Bourne Does the Horizontal Ballet." New York Times (March 13, 2005): 2.1.

Macaulay, Alastair, ed. Matthew Bourne and His Adventures in Motion Pictures. New York: Faber and Faber, 2001.

Schaefer, Stephen. "Bourne to be Wild." The Advocate (October 27, 1998): 60.

Ulrich, Allan. "Not Your Basic Fairy Tale." The Advocate (May 25, 1999): 87-88.

Wolf, Matt. "Matthew Bourne: A Bow for Bravado." American Theatre (May/June, 1997): 33-35.


    Citation Information
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Bourne, Matthew  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated September 16, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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