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Review: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake @ Birmingham Hippodrome

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

Incredibly it’s 16 years since Matthew Bourne’s reinterpretation of that gold standard of classical ballet, Swan Lake, was first unleashed on an unsuspecting theatre public.

No one who saw its first tour with Adam Cooper as the lead swan (see Billy Elliot) will ever forget the impact this show made as it crash-landed like a spectacular UFO into the Roswell desert of the ballet world. In dance terms its only possible comparison must be the sensation caused when Diaghilev brought the barbarically beautiful Ballets Russes to the west, scandalising Paris and revolutionising popular taste forever.

Since 1995 Mathew Bourne’s Swan Lake has toured the world repeatedly, especially Russia, Japan and the USA, and been seen by hundreds of thousands of theatre lovers. As well as creating the very taste by which it must be judged it has inspired a whole generation of new dancers – some current members of the company were only toddlers when it first appeared.

Its big selling point of course has always been the so-called “all-male” cast but in reality it’s full of incredibly beautiful, sumptuously dressed and sexy women. It’s only the swans who are men, repositioning male dancers at the very heart of ballet, a place they occupied before dwindling into mere supports for ballerinas in the 1900s. But this audacious recasting gave Mr Bourne the chance to make a Swan Lake totally relevant to our own times.

There’s plenty more besides swans here as well, of course – the semaphoring courtiers signalling the claustrophobia of the prince’s life complete with stuffed corgi, the outrageously decadent and camp night club with its vulture-like paparazzi, the mock Opera House poshed-up ballet, and the stupendously explosive court ball. It’s all very very sexy, and poignantly, unexpectedly funny as well. But at its heart there are always the swans, reinvented here as symbols of our hopes, our dreams, our ideals, maybe unattainable but worth striving for if we are to remain human at all. Oh, and did I forget to say it’s absolutely heartbreaking?

This first night provoked a reaction I have seen only once before, significantly at another performance of this same production, a completely spontaneous standing ovation.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake runs until February 13. Single tickets are still available for some performances on 0844 338 5000 or online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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2 Comments

  1. jane

    14th February, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Matthew Bournes production of swan lake was the most amazing production I have ever seen ,it was sexy, erotic,and so moving .I have seen alot of dance productions many being ballet but nothing effected me like this production, i cried at several times it was incredible how it made you feel inside and only the lights coming up and dignity stopped me.What an incredible night,,

  2. Jane Johnson

    15th February, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Mt friends and I went to see Swan Lake on Tuesday night at Birmingham Hippodrome, we all agreed it was the most beautiful, touching and funny production we had ever seen. We were thrilled when

    Matthew Bourne came on stage to introduce a five minute student production which was superb, and then the main ballet followed. What a night, fantastic.