Swan Lake: The International Classic Ballet Theatre – Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Reviewer: Graham Williams

Artistic Director: Marina Medvetskaya

Composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky

From the disappointing programme and online advertising it is difficult to gauge the experience and renown of the dancers and troupe who have been brought together mostly from the UK and eastern Europe by the Georgian prima ballerina, artistic director, Marina Medvetskaya.

There are glaring problems with this production right from Act 1. The quality of the ‘artists of the corps de ballet’ is not up to the standard of the principal dancers. Whilst it is refreshing to see dancers of all heights, shapes and sizes, at various times they are out of sequence, out of step, and even dance on the wrong foot, all of which sadly distract the eye from the principal dancers. At one point it is difficult not to think of the famous Vicar of Dibley sketch.

This cannot be put down to teething problems as this production has been touring since the 28 December and, as their online publicity states, they are fresh from touring the USA to great acclaim, but maybe that was a different international ensemble as only one dancer is from the USA.

The set is basic, but it is only a two-day run, and the smoke machine could be used to better effect. The swan costumes are chiffon heavy, more like a child’s ballet costume and once you notice the crossbow is made from a wooden coat hanger you cannot unnotice it. Perhaps the one elaborate one shown in the programme got broken in transit.

The main dancers are a joy to watch and make this production watchable. Odette danced by Assel Askarova (Odette) and Azamat Askarov (Siegfried) are both accomplished dancers. The evil sorcerer Rothbart, danced by Alan Shaken, is perfectly competent but his choreography could be more interesting to show off his talent better. The biggest applause of Act 1 is for the jester played by Yassaui Mergaliyev and deservedly so. He is given the chance to show off his talent and big up his applause being the jester, however more humour could have been drawn from his part.

Act 2 after the first intermission is overall the most enjoyable act to watch focusing more on the true talent and skills of the main characters. The ‘Pas de Trois’ is notorious for its technical difficulty. The Polish dance and the Spanish dance are both smoothly danced, with special mention to Zhanna Tevosyan and her tambourine. The skills of Askarova and Askarov are almost allowed to shine, however the stage size and set reduces the dancing space to give the impression that they are constrained but this is often going to be a problem for touring companies playing provincial theatres.

The orchestra too is worth a mention but neither it nor the conductor are credited but get a great applause during the curtain call

The theatre sadly had many empty seats. The Churchill Theatre is only 25 min on the frequent commuter train from central London, where seats for ballet are far more expensive. This production has a starting time of 7pm so the performance, even with two intervals, does not finish too late and this makes the show an excellent opportunity for families looking to inspire their children with a professional ballet performance.

Plays in rep with the Nutcracker until 14 January 2023. Then continues to tour.

The Reviews Hub Score

An unpolished production

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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