The ballet performed at Sadler’s Wells by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company every December and January is always one of the highlights of the ballet calendar, with ballet fans, celebrities and appreciative audiences flocking to it. This year sees the re-staging of the 1995 ballet that made Bourne’s name, was seen by the masses at the end of Billy Elliot, and changed the landscape of British ballet; his all male, homoerotic, Swan Lake.
This current production is an updated version of the 1995 staging with nods to technologies and pop culture that have come about since. The depressed prince sufferers under the weight of royal duty and protocol as his cold mother the Queen drags him to this event and that. He is given some momentary escape by a vacuous Paris Hilton esq blond bimbo before she is bribed by the head of the royal court to ignore him at a night club. Ever more depressed and drunk the Prince heads to the local park contemplating ending it all in the lake, only to be enchanted by a swan. And so begins the dance of the swans which will save him only to ultimately lead to his and his swan lovers death at the end of the ballet, for only in death can they truly be together.
Today we don’t bat an eyelid at the sexual attraction of the Prince and the male Swan that gives his life defending his human love. Their dancing is filled with tenderness, and sexual tension like one finds in a tango, but it’s more powerful, filled with competing male strength and compelling dominance from the swan. The homoerotisim is palpable which makes it all the more remarkable that Bourne took such a risk with this production back in the early 90s, and that it went down so well.
As ever Bourne asks of his young dancers (many were not even born when he first staged the production) more than anything classical ballet could. The dancers twist and contort into sculptural forms that strain every muscle as they give their all to their roles. The physical exertion is so great, that come the second act the swans are so drenched in their sweat that your eyes almost water from the lighting glistening off them. All major roles are played by a rotating set of dancers through the production run, which is likely just as much to do with their exertion as it is possible diary issues.
This is a remarkable production, it always has been. Sure there are a few parts, like the ball, that could be said to go on a tad too long but that can’t take away from it. There’s a reason that when I saw it they received on over 5 minute standing ovation. It is emotional, moving, and filled with the most sublime graceful and fluid dancing that you could hope to see on stage. It is one for the ballet lovers and the newbies, if classical ballet isn’t your thing, then go see a New Adventures production, it’s anything but.
London Lamppost Score –(4.5 / 5)
Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is at Sadler’s Wells till 27th January.
Tickets available here
Feature image – SWAN LAKE by Matthew Bourne, Matthew Ball as The Swan and Liam Mower as The Prince. Choreography – Matthew Bourne, Designs – Let Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, New Adventures, 2018, Plymouth, Royal Theatre Plymouth, Credit: Johan Persson