Sadler’s Wells, London – until 27 January 2019
As one of dance’s most iconic productions, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake returns home to a rapturous reception. The story of The Prince, starved of love and chained by duty, who finally finds love and acceptance in an unlikely place, is a tragedy. Yet Bourne’s trademark injection of comedy is dialled up tenfold in this production, with laughs drawn from staging (a mechanical corgi), performances (notably The Girlfriend, played in this performance by Carrie Willis) and premise (notably the ballet performance watched by the Royals, poking fun at traditional ballet stereotypes).
While the plot scurries along, the most striking elements remain those that feature The Swan and his herd. Such is the iconography of this character that when he finally makes an appearance in Act 2, perfectly paired with Tchaikovsky’s quintessential score, there is a frisson of excitement in the audience.
The swans are truly extraordinary. Their casting as male dancers, coupled with their costuming, enables Bourne to perfectly capture their grace, ferocity and strength. This also serves as a homage to the athleticism of a dancer, usually concealed or, at the very least, downplayed.
Yet there are times where it’s clear that a larger stage is required for the swan troupe, particularly in A City Park; it simply feels that it has outgrown its roots. That aside, the stage is awash with exquisite costuming, opulent set design and explosive choreography.
Individually, the Prince (a sweet and earnest Dominic North) and The Swan (the powerful Will Bozier) are stunning. Together, they are not a typical pairing – but that serves only to highlight the atypicality of Bourne’s vision. The Queen (Katrina Lyndon) and Willis also contribute memorable performances combining theatrics with dance excellence, all the whole bolstered by a superb ensemble.
23 years after its original staging at London’s Sadler’s Wells, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is back with more electricity, punch and swagger than ever before. With a standing ovation, the audience agrees; this is a must-see.
Runs until 27th January 2019Reviewed by Bhakti GajjarPhoto credit: Johan Persson