Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Director: Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Swan Lake is well known to be one of Tchaikovsky’s great musical pieces; arguably the most famous ballet of all time. In this unusual take on the classic, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake continues to cast a spell on audiences the world over 19 years from its debut – and for good reason.
Bourne’s Swan Lake opens with a dream sequence in The Prince’s bedroom, an eerie foreshadowing of what is to come in the bittersweet end. A perfect recipe of breathtaking sets, the swell of its score and the sheer talent of its cast begin the piece – a mix it sustains throughout, with deceptive ease.
From the off, the entire company flood the stage, teasing the audience with a display of perfectly executed choreography and slick changes. The plot is quickly established with beautifully staged dance – and the occasional laugh.
Humour plays a vital rôle in Bourne’s production, as long sequences of intense dance are perfectly complemented with an injection of comic relief. That is not to say the humour feels shoehorned or cheap, far from it; as with many elements of the piece, its genius lies in its subtlety. Impeccably timed and delivered with little more than a nod to the savvy audience member, there is rarely an outright joke – all is left the viewer. In ‘the Girlfriend’, Carrie Johnson delivers a brash humour that works well in establishing a likeable caricature but also complements the otherwise dark and intense tale that unfolds.
The cast as a whole are clearly well rehearsed and each talented in their own right. Liam Mower’s Prince is flawless; the balance of expressing madness under the mask of a headstrong prince is achieved from the outset, the audience showing real emotion at the demise of his character in the later Acts, 3 and 4. Chris Trenfield’s Swan is equally breathtaking to watch, while Saranne Curtin’s Queen is delivered as curtly as the character dictates – a real treat to see.
The ability to make an audience feel as if they have been transported to another world while at all times remaining in their seats is no easy task, but one that was perfectly executed by set designer Lez Brotherston. Towering columns scream palatial opulence yet pale into insignificance when the Swan takes centre stage -theatre trickery at its very best which allows the tale to come to life like no other production has achieved. To say transitions are slick is an understatement, with both cast and crew clearly choreographed to the millisecond. To say anything more of the set would give away too much, but a sharp intake of breath is a regular occurrence in this production. The wow factor is, most certainly, achieved.
As a whole, the production is near flawless. Audiences can expect to be hooked from start to finish – a truly breathtaking adaptation of a classic. An audio/visual spectacle like no other that is touring the UK just now. In short, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is unmissable.
Runs until 22 February, then touring