There are not many times I am left speechless. But it happened several times on Tuesday. March 12th saw Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake return to Bristol Hippodrome. It last graced the Bristol stage with it’s feathery presence in 2014 and since then Bristol has been waiting with bated breath.
I wish everyone had the chance to see a piece of Matthew Bourne’s work because it will change the way you think about and see classical ballet forever. And I’ll stand by that statement.
So why is Bourne so revolutionary? Because he makes ballet so accessible. A Matthew Bourne audience is so different compared to an audience for a classical ballet. His storytelling is like no other. The plot so clear, humour drizzled throughout, gritty dark elements to harden up the softness, all these elements make Matthew Bourne as successful as he is.
Swan Lake is known as the classical twee ballet with dainty ballerinas. But Bourne looked at things differently. He saw swans as strong, muscular and powerful creatures and interpreted the classic tale in a very different way. He sees things in a way no one else has or maybe even can. He is a true visionary and it’s his visions that give his choreography the unique and innovative style it has.
His choice of lines and movements are always something new and fresh. Each as symbolic and as reminiscent of swans as the next.
The Swan/The Stranger was played by Will Bozier. Dark, mysterious and mesmerising he is effortless as the guarded swan and sultry stranger who makes his way round dancing with all the women at the party before pinpointing the Prince. He makes endless leaps and turns with ease, his height never dropping and energy never failing.
The Prince played by Dominic North kept up well when dancing with Bozier. Their chemistry filled the stage, putting anyone else nearby in the shadow. Your eyes were constantly transfixed when they danced together. Their pairing teamed with Bourne’s choreography is a match made in heaven.
Other than these two leads which created the main love story there were other strong supporting characters in particular the Queen and the Girlfriend. The Queen’s relationship with the Prince was particularly moving, and their pas de deux was divine! The Girlfriend played brilliantly by Katrina Lyndon stole every scene she was in, bringing hilarity to the show. In fact it was mainly women who brought the comedy to the production, another change that Bourne took on.
Last but not least I have to mention the Swans. From the moment the first single swan glided across the stage to the climax of the swans swarming the prince in the final act, I had chills. There is so much to say about this master of an ensemble. Power is the word that immediately comes to mind. This entire production is the definition of power and the main source of it is the Swans.
Due to the absolute dance legend that Bourne is, it means he gets first pick of the dancers. The entire cast don’t put a foot wrong, lines are clean and movements are sharp. The complexity yet clearness of their movement and expression is second to none.
Writing this review seems inadequate, simply because I cannot quite express how brilliant this production is. Words fail me, but actions prove a lot, so I’ll say this… I have never seen a standing ovation like it. I’ve honestly never seen an entire audience stand up so fast and so early on. We clapped and clapped and I really didn’t want it to end. This masterpiece is still just as amazing twenty years on. The legend has returned.