Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

This 2018 revival of Bourne’s 1995 reimagining of the classic Swan Lake goes above and beyond expectations. The already familiar substitution of the female corps-de-ballet with all-male swans seems no less revolutionary today than it was 25 years ago. All images of graceful and dainty women in glittering costumes are forgotten as the bare-chested and powerful swans take over the stage in a decidedly menacing yet hypnotising way.

The truly lifelike and almost awkward bird movements are made to seem so realistic by the dancers, perfectly in sync and emanating a huge amount of power in their dancing as a group. This creates a new idea about the femininity of swans, giving way to aggression and a threatening kind of strength. Throughout, the ensemble gives a compelling performance achieving both very successful technique and also at times a surprising amount of humour.

Coupled with the technically skilled dancing, Lez Brotherston’s set also brings a lot to the show. The simple white set allows for slick scene changes provided by various backdrop curtains, in one scene mimicking a theatre for a comedically over-dramatic ballet fixed at a jaunty angle. The use of scale and space also sufficiently isolates the Prince at times, making him seem even more alone and afraid in the world, evident through both his pained movements and captivating facial expressions.

As part of a surprisingly young cast, Will Bozier’s magnetic Swan and Dominic North’s neglected young Prince stand out particularly in their dances together. The Prince’s desperation for love and affection is agonisingly tangible throughout the show, and his rapture finally found in being with the Swan is wonderful. The raw power of the Swan comes across in an intensely seductive way, creating immense chemistry with the Prince. As both the Swan and the Stranger at the ball, Bozier commands the stage, demanding attention with his striking movements.

Notable in this performance are the glances and eye contact between dancers and the audience. At times subtle and others very pointed, the connection between the dancers is greatly enhanced by the choreographed and perfectly timed head turns and pained looks. Between the Swan and the Prince, these glances mix beautifully with the otherwise almost aggressive power dynamics, adding an element of softness in their relationship as they dance. While they both exude masculinity, the intensely close proximity of the dancers, as well as their seemingly effortless lifts, reveal a gentle and loving side to their connection.

This production is completely spellbinding. Its fast pace and spirit are compelling and highly emotional and left the audience in awe, as proven by the thunderous standing ovation at the close of the show.

Swan Lake

Festival Theatre

16th – 20th October

Image: Capital Theatres

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