Review: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake @ Sadlers Wells

By Lindsey Last edited 109 months ago
Review: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake @ Sadlers Wells

By Bill Cooper

Yes, it's the one with the male swans and the homoerotic undertones. Forget evil magician bird curses, 19th century tutu ladies and clip clopping cygnet dancing. This Swan Lake operates in the post-Freudian world where the Royal Family are papped at every opportunity, a single mother queen needs to be steely and there's no decent role model for a coming of age prince.

This is not a ballet in any traditional sense. It's a fabulously entertaining and moving piece of theatre told through dance. The storytelling and acting are every bit as superb as the dancing. A sense of humour is firmly in place in the characters of the ill-fated innocent, giggly, goofy girlfriend blundering straight through all class etiquette and the spoof "ballet" sending up every cliche that this production avoids.

The swans, reinvented as a flock of wild, powerful, tribal male creatures epitomise the freedom, physicality and virility that the poor, unfortunate prince so desires. They captivate the audience and dominate the end of the first act with Bourne's clever and complex choreography set against Tchaikovsky's classic, lush score. The prince's interaction with the swans confirms their feral nature and his dances with the lead swan combine attraction, admiration and fear. After the interval, the dark stranger at the royal ball inspires all these feelings again mixed with a potent dose of sexuality as he seduces every woman present, including the icily elegant queen. It's enough to drive a poor boy mad, you know. Faithful to the original story, there's not a happy ending here but, oh, what a dramatic ride.

Hard to believe this show premiered at Sadlers Wells in 1995 - it's as fresh, sexy, funny, heart wrenching, beautiful and brilliant as ever. If you haven't booked yourself a Christmas theatre treat yet, please do go and see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, however many times you've seen it before.

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake is at Sadlers Wells now until 24th January, Tues-Sun at 7.30pm, Sat & Sun matinees at 2.30pm. Check for extra Christmas week shows. Tickets £10-50 available online or call 0844 4124300.

Last Updated 16 December 2009