Director and Choeographer: Matthew Bourne
Set and Costume Designer: Lez Brotherston
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
What more can one say about Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures Company that has not already been said?! A rhetorical question really since his productions, and in particular his Swan Lake, are responsible for selling both classical ballet and contemporary dance to UK audiences and latterly worldwide. His is a very special mix of the two and it is his light touch, nay humour/off-beat approach, even in such an august and moving piece as Swan Lake, that makes his productions so accessible and magical. Swan Lake remains his most popular, certainly with his Milton Keynes fan base, and we have this week not only his famous 1995 re-interpretation of the original ballet but also his recent amendments to this revival tour which, along with the now-celebrated set designs by his long-term collaborator in design, Lez Brotherston, create a powerful and modern-day show for all.
Returning to the iconic rôle of The Swan/Stranger and played with charisma is Chris Trenfield, who recently starred as Leo in Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. His is a truly brooding and powerful swan and his mobster-type presence at the ball as the Stranger creates an imposing effect and an excellent contrast to his swan. He has the tics and movements of the swan to a tee as he struts across the stage or leaps in the air and yet his duet with the Prince is so poignant, as is that last and tear-inducing scene. Liam Mower brings us the ingénue and almost delicate Prince. This is his debut in the rôle but one would not know it. He is utterly convincing as the character with beautiful movement. The Queen is portrayed by one of New Adventures most popular lead females, Madelaine Brennan, who was last seen in this production as The Girlfriend. She does a sterling job as the cold and controlling mother who too late realises the error of her ways. What a lovely pas de deux with our ‘black swan’/Stranger in the ball scene. Tres flamenco!
The ever-popular rôle of The Girlfriend has been taken on by Carrie Johnson, last seen in Nutcracker, and one can see that she excels in the comic rôles. Great facial expressions but she does not overdo it either. Believable and very fumy, especially in the Royal Box watching the ballet!
The ensemble, and Bourne has added over 20 new dancers to his company, is fantastic throughout, always in sync and always classy. The dancers really know how to bring out the humour and the humanity in the Bourne story of Swan Lake and his choreography. This is particularly marked in the opening scenes at the palace and later in the infamous Swank bar. Fabulous costumes and coquettish hairdos assist. And yet the beauty, power and grace of the swans, as well as the maliciousness of some of them, is also brought to life incredibly by some of the same dancers! Special mention must go to the delightful cygnets.
In the darker moments Rick Fisher’s lighting design certainly adds to the overall impact and this was never more so than in the bedroom scene with the Queen’s huge shadow dancing quite threateningly across the back wall. The ever-reliable Lez Brotherston’s set design is as wonderful, suffice to say.
A testament to the evening’s entertainment is that some were crying and the majority of the audience was up on its feet at the end of the show. It is never too late to be converted to Matthew Bourne and New Adventures, so if any reader has not had the chance then Milton Keynes is the place to go this week.
Photo: Bill Cooper | Runs until 1 Feb 14