For a show that was programmed to run for a two week season at Sadler’s Wells, followed by a UK tour, Swan Lake has defied expecations. Now in its 15th year, it is a polished perfection in dance-theatre, selling out to devoted audiences all across the country.
This is not the traditional Swan Lake, renowned for its female corps de ballet, although Tchaikovsky’s original score does still remain. Here, every swan is male, bearing strong, exposed chests and wearing white, feathered breaches. Here, ballet is just one mere style amongst elements of Latin American, contemporary and soft tap (to name but a few!). Add to the mix eroticism and homo-eroticism, as the pas de deux’s is not being limited to male-female partnerships.
The cast, as soloists, and as ensemble, are utterly magical. Group sequences, including the infamous ‘City Park Scene’, where the Prince dances with powerful and often vicious swans (representative of his search for love and freedom), are breathtaking. The versatility of every single performer is captivating, and it is no surprise to find, when looking through the programme, that most have come from the most prestigious dance schools, including Rambert, Central and the Royal Ballet School. Furthermore, Bourne’s frequent use of canon is visually stunning to watch.
Stand-out performances come, most obviously, from the four lead roles- the main Swan (Richard Winsor), the emotive Prince (Dominic North), the stunning Queen (Charlotte Broom) and the comical Girlfriend (Madelaine Brennan,whose facial expressions, physicality and timing remind me very much of Sheridan Smith from Legally Blonde). But every dancer is at the top of their game as they have to act Bourne-style - 'without words.'
Lez Brotherston's diverse set designs, Rick Fisher's lighting rigs, and the evocative props and costumes are not only impressive, but constructive in changing tone as well. A brief appearance from a dog on wheels will leave you hysterical, the jagged designs of trees in the park creates a sense of the gothic and the gorgeous red gown the Queen wears in Act Three at the Royal Ball is enough to keep you spellbound.
Having won 30 international theatre awards, it is no surprise that this production is still able to impress and excite. Bourne, in a recent interview, commented on how Swan Lake still holds a very special place in his heart. Well Matthew, thanks to your work and vivid imagination, it still holds a very special place in ours.
A stunning Swan that is not showing its age!
- Rebecca Cohen