Extra Review: Swan Lake

Photo by Helen Maybanks.Photo by Helen Maybanks.
Photo by Helen Maybanks.
TCHAIKOVSKY’S Swan Lake in the hands of choreographer Matthew Bourne has been labelled a ‘modern classic’ - and, eighteen years after first taking to the stage, it’s easy to see why.

The New Adventures production is famous for the romantic pairing of the fragile prince (Liam Mower) with a powerful male swan (Chris Trenfield) — perhaps particularly poignant as the world’s spotlight falls on Russia and its recent controversies.

In fact, all the swans — traditionally female roles — are played by muscular male dancers; at once magnificent and menacing, displaying power and grace in equal measures (and more than a hint that this particular flock could break your arm and more).

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IOt’s a common misconception that it’s an all-male production — in fact, this Swan Lake opens on tensions between the young prince and his cold, distant mother (danced elegantly by Saranne Curtin).

The ensemble cast provide an entertaining first act; from royal court conventions to the rules of a seedy dive bar (Swank Bar — points for wordplay there), where ballet blends seemlessly into down and dirty disco moves, followed later by a foray into flamenco.

Carrie Johnson as the lowbrow girlfriend trying (unsuccessfully) to charm her way into the Queen’s favour is a hit with the audience, and provides more than a few laughs.

But the most moving scenes are when our prince stumbles on the dance of the swans; an ongoing power struggle between the prince and his swan lover, and the tense feathered creatures surrounding them throughout, wingspans outstretched.

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Chris Trenfield plays both the swan and the stranger well, shifting from tenderness in the first act to sexual swagger in the second.

Pairing the stranger with the Queen in a sensual dance is particularly effective, as the prince is tortured by images of his new-found love with the woman who continues to reject him.

As Swan Lake builds to a tragic conclusion, the stage takes on a haunted element, with dark and looming shadows cast on an increasingly stark backdrop — the ballet’s original text of white vs black swan imposed on all the characters.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is, like his other Tchaikovsky adaptations, a triumph guaranteed to haunt you all the way home — and an accessible enough storyline for even first-time ballet-goers.

Swan Lake runs at the King’s Theatre until Saturday. Performances are at 7.30pm (as well as 2.30pm Thurs and Sat matinees) and tickets are £16.90-£46.40 from 0844 871 7627.