Monday, 25 August 2014

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (by Annie @corieltauviart)

I saw Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake for the very first time this year.  You can read my review here and how much I was blown away by this incredible production.  I would like to share Annie's experience when she saw it at New Wimbledon Theatre in May.  Here is her account:

 Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake
New Wimbledon Theatre
1st May 2014 - Matinee
by @corieltauviart 

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake
(Photo Credit: New Adventures (

I think it is widely accepted that Matthew Bourne's eponymous Swan Lake can now be numbered amongst the classics of the modern dance repertoire: an emotionally charged modern retelling of the classical ballet. The problem with becoming such a well-loved and recognised work is that many are tempted to draw comparisons between recent castings and past casts, specifically Adam Cooper, the originator of the Swan/Stranger rôle for Adventures in Motion Pictures, and Richard Winsor/Dominic North who starred in the more recent  Swan Lake 3D movie.  

However, I believe that such comparisons are wholly unfair to the other, subsequent casts and principals and it is worth watching each cast free of preconception and comparisons.

The ballet opens with a lonely, boyish Prince, struggling with the constraints of duty and his own developing sexuality. There is little warmth between the Prince and his cold, distant mother,a Queen who seems equally bound by duty and her insatiable appetite for younger men.

Loneliness and despair contribute to the Prince's descent into self-destruction and potential alcoholism, leading him via an unsuitable girlfriend and a seedy club, to the shore of a lake in a public park. Here, on the brink of suicide, he is stopped by a Swan, or perhaps by his fantasy of what a swan could be: the representation of freedom, wildness and lack of constraint. He falls in love with the Swan, who perhaps exists only in his own fantasy, and a mix of ecstasy and elation save him from suicide.

Spin forward, and a handsome stranger arrives at a Royal Ball, oozing dynamic charm and sexual energy.The resemblance to the Swan leads to a burgeoning jealousy in the Prince's mind as the Stranger makes many conquests amongst the opposite sex, culminating with the Queen herself. Events and envy spiral out of control, and the Prince's unsuitable girlfriend becomes an unfortunate casualty.

The Prince's mental state deteriorates and after a course of treatment his own internal fantasy turns against him. The swans become vengeful, nature at its most cruel, as if his life is inextricably linked to his own fantasy. Reunited in death with his lover, the Queen is left sorrowfully mourning the death of the son who never felt her love.

The design, choreography, costuming and cast all combined to give an unforgettable and emotionally charged experience. Lez  Brotherston's set in places references Hollywood Glamour and the Art Deco era, managing to be both simple yet opulent, atmospheric, disturbing yet still leaving some details to the imagination.

Simon Williams portrayed a boyish Prince, rather lost,vulnerable and bored with his life. I felt he brought a quality of youth and naïveté to the rôle.

As the Swan, Chris Trenfield was definitely a wild and untamed animal, both fierce and gentle, beautiful and savage and strangely asexual. In contrast, his Stranger was assured, confident, full of controlled yet cruel sexuality and raw magnetism.

Madelaine Brennan initially portrayed a respectable, duty-bound monarch, her character gradually revealed that she was prey to her own sexual appetite, both a vamp and a tease.

Anjuli Mehra was a wonderfully cheeky, wonderfully unsuitable but strangely innocent girlfriend.

I enjoyed watching the whole ensemble perform, acting through the medium of dance in Bourne's typical style, but the Swans were particularly breathtaking - beautifully synchronised : wild, untamed nature brought to life, ultimately deadly and menacing in the shocking climax to the ballet.

It is unclear how much of the narrative takes place within the mind of the Prince,: personal wish-fulfilment fantasies of wildness, freedom and sexuality, a confusion of fantasy and reality concerning the Swan and Stranger, echoing his own confused sexuality and desire for love.

This production is no longer touring in the UK, but if the opportunity arises to see a future tour of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, then I can wholeheartedly recommend booking a ticket.

Review by @corieltauviart

I would like to thank Annie for the review and we are now looking forward to Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake returning to our stages in the not too distant future! In the meantime we have their productions of Lord of the Flies, Edward Scissorhands and Car Man to look forward to in the meantime!

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