Culture / Theatre

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake @ King’s Theatre Glasgow

Bourne’s dazzling re-imagining of Swan Lake is thoroughly modern, funny, original and fearless.

The action on stage begins with crisp costumes, regal set pieces and the dramatic backdrop of menacing swans cavorting in the moonlight while the prince sleeps. The chilling, gothic start gives way to a present-day crisp morning, as the daily routine of the prince and the queen throws a cheeky nod to Royal and public life, complete with corgis and paparazzi. One very noticeable thing lacking in the production is traditional ballet shoes. The sole appearance of the classic pointe shoe occurs in an all-out parody, when Bourne challenges the fourth wall by having his royal characters sit in the audience while a hyperbolic performance, complete with aesthetic and technical similarities to the original Swan Lake plays out, much to the amusement of the audience.

Matthew Bourne’s SWAN LAKE. 15-12-2009

Bourne’s satirical edge points towards the audience. When the ditsy ‘girlfriend’ character’s phone blares out during the parody scene, this seems to be a thinly veiled nod towards indiscrete audiences. This self-aware cheekiness permeates the performance and places the production firmly in the present and kept the audience on their toes.

The furthest departure from the quaint, delicate original Swan Lake comes in a night club scene which features rent boys, prostitutes, burlesque dancers and general debauchery. The prince is later harassed by the paparazzi and is seen to lean on alcohol to attempt to combat his personal issues. A following illustrious royal ball descends into depravity , with Bourne examining the flaws of the human condition and subverting old-world customs and picturesque scenes.

One thing that the original Swan Lake and Bourne’s production have in common is the primary dancer having dual roles. Played captivatingly on Tuesday by Jonathan Olliver, the swan and the stranger dominate the stage with strength, sexuality, mystery and magnetism. Bourne’s move of casting male actors as swans completely transformed the original ‘cygnet’ roles into physically powerful, carnal, fierce beings, whose movements are sinister yet soft, aggressive yet immaculate. The choreography of the swans scenes is astounding and it’s what gives the production real emotional impact.

Jamie Emma McDonald, on the left, is from Newton Mearns

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