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A CurtainUp London London Review
Matthew Bourneís Swan Lake

But what makes Bourneís Swan Lake seem new is something else: it takes the old balletís idea of a struggle against fate and translates it into a tale about a fight against repression.
---- Alastair Macaulay writing about Matthew Bourneís version of Swan Lake
Matthew Bourneís Swan Lake
Company of swans (Photo: Bill Cooper)

I am an admirer of Matthew Bourneís work but until now I have not been fortunate enough to have seen his famous version of Swan Lake with the parts of the swans danced entirely by men. The closest I got was that snippet in the film Billy Eliot where the talented Billy appears grown up as a swan in Bourneís production.

I was blown away by this Swan Lake which still seems entirely fresh and innovative even though it has been playing for eleven years. Apparently since 1995 there have been more performances of this new Swan Lake at home and abroad than of the conventional version in the preceding 55 years at Londonís Royal Ballet House in Covent Garden. Of course it is a new company of dancers who are interpreting Bourneís choreography and maybe this is what keeps the production fresh. It has to be one of my top five picks of the year and certainly the most exciting show Iíve seen this Christmas season.

I have just read Elyse Sommerís review of the production when it was on Broadway and I heartily endorse everything that she has to say. It is an intensely emotional experience to empathise with the young prince who finds a life where he can be free to lead a simple and aestheticlly beautiful life with the swans who swim on the lake. It is the characterisation of Bourneís interpretation which impresses at every turn. From the dance of the little swans, at once cute and full of cheeky bravado, participants in the school playground, to the stately grace wedded with power and otherness of the male swans. We are reminded that swans pair for life, creatures of pure devotion.

Thomas Whitehead dances the twin roles of the Swan and the Stranger alternating with Alan Vincent. As in one scene the Prince (Matthew Hart) invades the lake, the world of the elegant swans, the parallel return visit is set up when the Stranger invades the Royal ball and every woman in the room from the Queen (Saranne Curtin) downwards is fascinated and serenaded by this charismatic dancer.

Lez Brotherstonís designs are majestic and striking, a perfectly stylised backdrop to the dance of pure, bold lines which do not interfere.

Of course Tchaikovskyís music is well known and wildly romantic. I have rarely been to the ballet and wouldnít count myself an especial fan of dance but Matthew Bourne is dance for people like me who appreciate great theatre. Somehow Bourneís choreography and direction transcend the ordinary whereby the viewer can engage with whatís on stage at a level which is pure emotion. It is beautiful and the experience of a lifetime.

For details of the extensively reworked plot, please see CurtainUp's Swan Lake Review
With Bourne's latest, his version of Edward Scissorhands now touring the US, you might also want to check out my review of that production here as well at the just posted review of one of its first American stops in Los Angeles

Director and Choreographer: Matthew Bourne

Starring: Thomas Whitehead/Alan Vincent, Matthew Hart/Simon Williams, Saranne Curtin/Nina Goldman, Nina Goldman/Agnes Vandrepote, Ashley Bain/Rain de Rye Barrett/Alan Vincent
With: Will Aitchison, Ashley Bain, Emma Bown, Cody Choi, Laurent Codair, Nicholas Cunningham, Rain de Rye Barrett, Francesco díAstici, Pia Driver, Ross Fountain, Stuart Goodwin, Samuel Guy, Quentin Harris, Rebecca Jackson, Hendrick January, Simon Karaiskos, Daisy-May Kemp, Lynsey Krence Hatfield, Anabel Kutay, Helen Moore, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Dominic North, Gavin Persand, Samuel Plant, Paul James Rooney, Paul Smethurst, Toby Smith, Damien Lee Stirk, Irad Timberlake, Noi Tolmer, Victoria Sahakian-Rogers, Agnes Vandrepote
Design: Lez Brotherston
Lighting: Rick Fisher
Associate Directors: Scott Ambler and Etta Murfitt
Restaged by Scott Ambler, Etta Murfitt and Vicky Evans
Revised orchestrations: Rowland Lee
A New Adventures production in association with Back Row Productions and Sadlerís Wells
Running time: Two hours thirty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 737 7737
Booking to 21st January 2007
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th December 2006 performance at Sadlerís Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London N1 (Tube: The Angel, Islington)
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