Review: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

A unique reinvention of a classic work, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake creates a glorious unison between contemporary dance and classical ballet. The inspired vision of this piece combines powerful and expressive choreography with clean, stylish design and roaring humour, furthering the capabilities of modern dance performance.

As the most beloved ballet in the world, Matthew Bourne’s plans to reinvent Swan Lake, not least with a flock of all-male swans as opposed to the traditional female swan maidens, was thought to be presumptuous and subsequently met with concern and resistance.  Fifteen years on and the show has hailed success in the West End, Broadway and across the World.  The current touring production is much adapted and reworked from the original incarnation, the outcome of which being a cleaner more focused plot with toned-down humour and tighter choreography.

The story is encouraged to be interpreted by the individual but simplistically revolves around a young crown Prince and his distant mother, the Queen.  The Prince lusts for freedom, represented in essence by his fantasy of the enamored Swan.  With deeply affected undertones and an ultimately tragic conclusion, it is hard to believe that it can be so boldly infused with humour, not least during the campy, poke-fun at, melodramatic “Opera House” ballet with the Girlfriend centre of attention at her Legally Blonde best.

Dominic North as the Prince dances with harrowing innocence, markedly expressing the despair of this young character, frustrated and desperate for affection from his heartless mother, he slumps to the lake to kill himself.  Later consumed with lust for the unattainable Swan, North dances his nervous discovery with great control and thought.  Jonathan Ollivier as the Swan is masculine in his pale lunar appearance, revealing the power and elegance of the creature so poetically captured in the logical study of Bourne’s choreography.  As the Stranger he is alluring yet fearsome, lethally and effortlessly controlling everyone around him.  Nina Goldman as the icy Queen delivers a stern elegance, suitably shallow and a little saucy at times, and Madelaine Brennan as the Girlfriend, frivolous and delightfully comedic with her expression.  The dancers are a brilliantly precise and expressive company, the partners covering various roles exchanged throughout the run, constantly giving new life to each performance as the individuals dance their interpretations of the character.  For the male chorus of dancers to move so celestially in unison is requisite to Bourne’s vision and belief.

The compelling narration of the dance and the transcendent music, arguably Tchaikovsky’s finest, present a true miracle of performance.  The final curtain fell to an audience in tears, soon to rise again to momentous applause.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 18th September 2010, further tour dates available at

Written on behalf of The Public Reviews

Copyright © The Public Reviews & theatreJunki 2010.


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