Latest Review – Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake [The Lowry] [UK Tour]


The Lowry, Salford Quays

Until Saturday 1st December 2018

It may well be 23 years since Matthew Bourne’s now legendary production of Swan Lake first burst onto the Sadler’s Wells stage back in 1995, but now returning with a revised new look for the 21st Century, Bourne’s convention-shattering creation could quite easily pass for a brand new production as it feels as fresh, as dynamic and as thrilling as ever.

Bourne’s audacious production unsurprisingly ruffled more than a few feathers (pun absolutely intended) when it first premiered – and still divides audiences to this day – yet despite being a fry cry from the traditional version of Swan Lake many will be familiar with, its genius lies in Bourne’s ability to boldly reimagine the classic tale in a way that builds on and pays homage to the original, without ever trying to out-do it.

Matthew Bourne is someone who has constantly challenged the conventions of ballet with the likes of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and The Red Shoes (to name just a mere few), demonstrating what can be achieved when you challenge the norm and increase appeal to the wider public. Swan Lake is a shining example of that and its legacy and influence on an entire generation of new dancers and theatregoers is perhaps unrivalled.

This 2018 revival does feature some revised choreography and new design elements by the great Lez Brotherson (set and costumes) and Paul Constable (lighting), making the most of new theatrical technology. That said however, fans need not panic too much as these little updates really are in the detail and many key aspects of the original production remain firmly intact.

Credit: Johan Persson 

Though retaining Tchaikovsky’s spellbinding score, Bourne’s contemporary-set adaptation cleverly subverts the conventional tale of the Swan Princess Odette, Prince Siegfried and the evil Baron Von Rothbart, here omitting a few notable characters and plot elements, and instead transforming the lyrical romantic ballet into a charged, psychological tale of suffocating monotony, frustration, betrayal and a desire for freedom.

Bourne’s bold decision to replace the female corps-de-ballet with a brooding all-male ensemble is perhaps still the most famous aspect of the piece, but it is a decision that has since gone down in dance history and gives it an utterly unique feel and energy.

Gone are the delicate corps of graceful female swans – all beautifully synchronised en-pointe – and in their place are a powerful and menacing male bevy that hiss, stamp and scratch in an intimidating, testosterone-fuelled whirl, daringly reinventing the archetype of the swan in an approach that highlights their often tender, often dangerous, yet wholly unpredictable nature.

Dominic North is excellent as the vulnerable and increasingly disheartened young Prince, who finds the affection he desperately craves from his detached mother in the form of Will Bozier’s strong and imposing Swan. Doubling as both the fiesty lead Swan and the seductive Stranger (the Black Swan of the original), the muscular and charismatic Bozier makes for a commanding and compelling lead, working brilliantly with a fluid and well-drilled corps, and demonstrating exceptional control, strength and balance, particularly in the pas de deux with North. There is some nice character work too from Katrina Lyndon as the Queen.

A strong ensemble tackle Bourne’s fast and edgy choreography in fine style, with Bourne ensuring that there is always plenty going on and always something to look at wherever your eyes wander to.

Swan Lake remains an evocative and atmospheric fusion of glorious music, intense, striking choreography, sumptuous design work, and powerful, charged dancing, and if you are yet to catch the unmissable production, now is most definitely your chance!

Running Time: 2 hours and 30-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at the The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 1st December 2018

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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