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A CurtainUp London Review
Matthew Bourneís Swan Lake
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
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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