Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Wales Millennium Centre, 12th March 2010
Matthew Bourne’s production of Swan Lake is famed for its modernist take on Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet. Mostly with this production one hears ‘isn’t that the all-male one?’. Well yes, it is. Sort of. There are lots of women in it – party girls, princesses, dancers – but it is all the swans that are male. This leads to some fantastic homoerotic swan-dancing moments, particularly the traditionally beautiful pas de deux which in this version becomes a wonderful piece, full of a strength and tension you wouldn’t find with a male-female pair.
I went on Friday with my male other half, who was gutted when he found out the swans wouldn’t be sexy ladies, but in the end admitted he loved it. I’m sure he’s after one of their costumes – the swans wore just feathery long shorts, with bare feet, and had white makeup with a black triangle on their forehead.
Although referred to as a ballet, purists would deny the label, as this Swan Lake is much more than that – based on the initial ballet, but with lots of contemporary movements woven in with the traditional. The show is also full of fantastic characters, humour and creative modern lighting effects.
The only problem I had with the show was that the music seemed to be somewhat of an afterthought. The actual music, of course, was written by the Russian powerhouse composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1876. It is an undeniably stunning piece of music, but for this production they used just a recording of the work
whose production was average at best, and performance not even that. As a musician I feel it would have been better to aim for the highest quality recording possible, and play it slightly louder.
In terms of performance, the dancers were excellent – the energy and might Bourne wanted in his swans was displayed to perfection, and the contrast between them and the ladies of the piece was a lovely counterpoint. There were some moments where inspired choreography just set this performance way above the rest, and the very end was so beautiful I cried, but I wouldn’t want to spoil that for you now, would I?