Dear friends, for once I am at a loss for words. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is an experience that defies description.
These young people are top class dancers but Bourne demands something more, he insists that his company can act as well and so the story unfolds, little innuendoes, hissing of angry swans, the antics of the girlfriend all go to making this a unique experience. I’ve never known an ovation like it in any theatre in Northern Ireland, the audience held their collective breath in the last scene when The Swan is pecked to death and the Prince lies dead on the huge royal bed. Then as the curtain falls on the final beautiful tableaux of the two unlikely lovers, the entire audience rose to their feet as one and the applause kept coming for three curtain calls and it was obvious that the company were delighted if a little stunned by their reception.
The surprise in this production is that the swans are men and tradition is turned on its head. The story is real, a young prince (Simon Williams on Tuesday) who worships his mother and doesn’t want any woman to replace her in his life. She in turn tries to set him up with one of the lovely girls she invites to the palace and to the extravagant ball. But he isn’t interested, in fact he’d considered ending his life in the lake but before he could, a flock of swans had landed beside him and danced their way into his heart, especially the powerful lead swan, on opening night danced by Jonathan Ollivier. Although the dream faded he remembered that swan and, when a tall stranger in black leather appears at the royal ball, he resembles the swan and excites the prince’s emotions.
The costumes and the set are outstanding, the lighting fascinating and of course the music being Tchaikovsky is gorgeous. There’s laugh out loud fun, sensual dance and by acknowledging the audience in their storytelling makes this company special and they gave us a night to remember.
There is little chance of getting a seat but try anyway, at best you might get one but even if you aren’t lucky this time, the message will get through that we want more Matthew Bourne’s productions.