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Review: Swan Lake @ Lichfield Garrick

A sweltering Lichfield night’s a long way from the frozen home of Russian Ballet, but oh, what a treat was in store. I’ve said this before but Swan Lake is always Swan Lake. Petipa’s incredible ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s irresistible score isn’t world famous for nothing and after more than a hundred years shows no signs of slowing down. I’ve seen Vienna Festival’s Ballet’s strong take on it before so I was eager to see how it was getting on. The result exceeded all expectations.

The first half tells a frankly unbelievable story. A prince needs a wife – his father’s dead so his mother produces a few suitable princesses to be the new queen. But his heart isn’t in it and on a hunting trip he sees a swan who turns out to be the love of his love in disguise under the sway of an evil enchanter, Baron Von Rothbart who has a whole flock of swan maidens in his thrall. Why, we never know, but by then we don’t care. It’s Swan Lake.

The first half may take a while to set the scene, although Francesco Bruni as the lithe Jester livens things up considerably and as well as the lovely music there’s plenty to look at especially the first of the famous “white” acts where tutu-clad ballerinas impersonate elegant swans with geometric precision.

But it’s the second half that is the real miracle. Here everything falls into place as the dancers really become their characters, the music visibly flowing through them. In the ballroom scene the court is packed out with lovely young ladies generously costumed and sumptuously turned out.

Amy Coughlan as the Queen Mother is graciously concerned while the national dances give the scene that extra fizz. Here I must mention one particular dancer, Joshua Royal as the Spaniard. Here is a dancer of rare ability, languid, unshowy, exact, with a reticent charm I would go a long way to see. He should be bringing himself to the attention of our great national companies.

Jeppe Jakobson as Baron Von Rothbart is dramatically sinister when Prince Siegfried (the athletic Richard Hackett) falls under his spell. But it’s Ryoko Yagyu who takes the real honours here in the guise of Odette’s evil twin the sexy Odile who astonishes by effortlessly completing 30 fouette’s, the Gold Medal effort for this role.

This vibrant young company deserve their obvious success with a beautifully danced, nicely acted, well-costumed, top-notch production. Do catch it if you can.

Vienna Festival Ballet’s Swan Lake runs until May 26 including a Saturday matinee. For tickets phone the Box Office on 01543 412121or go online at

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