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How far can you go in telling a story without using words?

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Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words: The Housewarming (2002) offers an especially intriguing work of adaptation. This hybrid piece of dance–theatre choreography suggests simultaneous correspondences with a number of subjects, and also with different artistic media. Bourne’s work explicitly references the 1963 Losey-Pinter film The Servant, which was adapted from Robin Maugham’s novella of the same name, while indirectly corresponding with 1960s British films. Furthermore, the work suggests, in an understated fashion, a correspondence with the theatrical poetics of Harold Pinter, which appears to serve in advancing Bourne’s aspiration to be regarded as a director – creating theatre through movement – rather than a creator of dances. This aspiration, which is manifested in various ways, both directly and indirectly, in interviews conducted with Bourne, underlies his overall approach as a choreographer.

Keywords: Harold Pinter; Joseph Losey; Matthew Bourne; The British New Wave; The Servant (novella and film); adaptation; choreography; theatre-dance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Tel-Aviv University

Publication date: August 26, 2011

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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