The Midnight Bell is a seedy tavern in the heart of London, where lonely hearts clamour for their space at the bar at the end of a long day, basking in the atmosphere fuelled by smoke, booze and a desire for romance, even if just for the night.
The real star of the show for this reviewer was Lez Brotherston’s set, lit by Paul Constable. To have the joy of watching this stunning set move from scene to scene was to find yourself transported into a painting of 1930s Fitzrovia. A damp, smoggy, fairly dangerous Fitzrovia at that.
Within minutes of the show opening, we are transported into not just one storyline, but multiple, as prostitutes, spinsters, businessmen and pickpockets find themselves interlaced as their own individual romances play out simultaneously. Terry Davies’ soundtrack shines especially well in the first act, gradually building tension as each storyline is developed. I found myself feeling somewhat hypnotised and mesmerised, and was promptly ‘snapped’ out of it with the final chime of The Midnight Bell introducing the interval.
The second act was a slightly more difficult watch, and felt markedly flat in comparison to the first act, with a lack of passion and ‘oomph’. It was difficult for the mind not to wander and overall felt quite anticlimactic in comparison. My sentiments seemed to be reflected in the audience’s applause at the end, which was notably more subdued than you’d expect for a production by Matthew Bourne.
Reviewed by Rosie Bambury