Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer Kate Goerner

Some shows are so iconic that a single image immediately identifies them, and 23 years after the all-male swans first leapt onto the stage in a flurry of feathers, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has certainly earned this status

Taking the classic score by Tchaikovsky, and reimagining it with a male central pairing and corps, Bourne – who directs as well as choreographs – shook up the traditional concept of classical ballet with this piece when it premiered in 1995.

He admits that not everyone in the dance world welcomed the bold move but it was worth every ruffled feather!

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Now updated for 2018, the production has lost non of its impact, and indeed looks and feels as fresh as ever.

The production opens on the bedroom of a restless prince (Dominic North, whose youthful appearance belies his experience in this role). The forced perspective of Lez Brotherston’s Palace set trapping the young royal figuratively and literally – tight bed covers restricting him just as his royal role does.

The society scenes that follow are a witty joy – we even have a royal corgi – with lots of little winks and nods for the audience. There’s so much to see, this is definitely a show that would lend itself to repeat viewings to take everything in.

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We follow the Prince and his mother the Queen – an arch Katrina Lyndon giving off perfect ‘Princess Margaret in The Crown’ vibes – going about their royal business.

Trying to conform, the Prince hooks up with party girl Carrie Willis (a real scene stealer of a performance) and they go on a date to the theatre – there is some ‘classical’ ballet in the show – of sorts!

Things don’t go well and the Prince finds himself in a deserted moonlit city park – when the swans arrive, lead by Will Bozier (authoritative and reminiscent of the great Adam Cooper)

What follows is some seriously strong dancing in all senses of the word, which culminates in the mesmerising pairing of North and Bozier. Seeing the Prince shake off his doubts and realise at that moment he is free to be himself is a genuinely joyous and touching moment.

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The male company dancers as swans are menacing and magnetic – they even hiss – yet are incongruously vulnerable too. The physicality displayed is done justice by Bourne’s unique choreography – all stamps, jumps and bird-like angles.

Act II brings the sexually-charged Palace Ball scene, with Bozier doubling as the Stranger. Leather trousers replace’s Odette’s black tutu, but the edgy menace remains.

The scene gives the whole company a chance to shine – as things whirl towards the chilling conclusion of the ball, and the poignant final scene.

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The Lowry audience were straight on their feet at the end, and indeed probably would have stayed there for a while longer if the curtain hadn’t been brought down. I’m not sure I can recall a warmer and more enthusiastic response to a dance show.

A very special evening watching a very special production. At The Lowry until Saturday December 1 – one not to be missed. Tickets available here.

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