Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Matthew Bourne's reimagining of the legendary ballet Swan Lake is full of iconic moments and a subtle nod to the future too. Peter Gray reports.

Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells Theatre

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake promises a bold, refreshing version of the famous work with the uber producer keeping the iconic elements of the classic ballet while still managing to give this “reimagining” a 21st century makeover.

Bourne’s interpretation of the play caused a sensation when it first debuted way back in 1995 with the traditionally female cast of swans replaced by male dancers. Well, it may be difficult to match that level of boldness, but this new production works admirably well.

The male swans are mesmerising – sweaty yet elegant, delicate yet powerful – they bring a rugged athleticism to the choreography which works well in the context.

It’s a typically dark Bourne production, like the very best of his work, yet there are some nice moments of light and humour, which break things up nicely and stops the show from becoming monotonous. The costumes are worth a mention too. The costume designer Lez Brotherson has performed an incredible job, with the various clothes and accessories nicely matching the mood and atmosphere of each scene.

The excellence of the music goes without saying. Tchaikovsky’s score is majestic and so instantly recognisable that it works on an almost subconscious level. The composer was at his very best during the period when he penned Swan Lake and the music is a joy to behold.

Swan Lake tells the story of a handsome young prince called Siegfried. One day the prince meets a mysterious woman called Odette. Odette is a swan by day, but at night she transforms into a young woman. It turns out that Odette has been put under a magic spell which can only be lifted if she meets a man who promises her his undying love. Siegfried promises exacty this but he is subsequently tricked by a magician and the tales ends with the death of the pair. It’s tragic stuff but it is also incredibly moving and heroically well played.

This new version of the famous ballet is perfectly conceived and gloriously delivered. Seasoned ballet lovers will thrill to the more audacious and emotive moments of the new production while newcomers will delight at the incredible dancing and master composer Tchaikovsky’s brilliant score.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is at Sadler’s Wells from the 4th of December 2018 until the 27th of January 2019.

If you would like more information on the production, please click here.

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