Twenty-three years after it first premiered, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is more triumphant than ever.
The plot at its simplest level follows the struggles of the Prince: a lost soul entangled in the repressive webs of his overbearing mother, his regal duty and by the inner turmoil of his confused identity and whose answers are found in the mysterious allure of the Swan.
This relationship is where the choreography excels, interweaving moments of tension with short bursts of playfulness that serve to highlight individual connections within the wider narrative framework. Bourne is, at his heart a storyteller; who builds upon traditional choreography with embellishments of contemporary, characterful movement. Removing ballet from its stereotype as a form available only within the remit of the well-afforded upper classes, Bourne opens up the discipline to wider society and ensures there is something for all.
At the core of this world-renowned adaptation is the creation of an all-male swan ensemble – a decision that subverts the traditionally heteronormative encounter between the Prince and the Swan into a same-sex liaison; in whatever semblance personal interpretation may permit. Underscoring the entire production with a muscular elegance, this creative decision remains to this day as iconic as it has ever been. Making an unforgettable entrance at the lakeside - where the Prince had gone at his wits end with the intent to end his suffering - the bevy of swans storm the stage from all angles, dominating the land with their threatening aggression and untamable beauty.
Lez Bretherston’s design beautifully accompanies the production, helping to whisk the audience away into far and distant lands without being gimmicky. In particular, the final image of his eerily distorted bedroom provides the sterile backdrop for a heartbreakingly visceral tableau of lost love.
A celebration of ballet past and future, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is magnificent. Sewing together the highlights of classical choreography without the pretense, Bourne inserts his own playful twists that work in contrast to the darker core themes within – a staple piece in the world of modern dance.
Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake runs at the Festival Theatre until Saturday 20th October 2018.