BWW Review: BWW REVIEW: MATTHEW BOURNE REIMAGINES SWAN LAKE at New York City Center
The first performance of Matthew Bourne's contemporary Swan Lake was performed at the Sadler's Wells Theater, London, in 1995. It has endured twenty-five years with the staying power of a new classic -- for very good reason. Bourne has reinvented the swans from maidens who have been turned into beautiful swans by an evil sorcerer, to male swans, summoned by the dreams and desires of a pampered, regimented prince, no sorcerer in sight. Much has been made of this and the homoerotic overtones that appear at times; however, there is much more to it than that as a piece of theater. It is a psychological drama which explores, among other things, celebrity and Royalty in today's world.
- the current production, which I saw on stage at the New York City Center on Friday, January 31st, the spell begins as it opens with the picture of a swan flying on a scrim at the front of the stage. When the glorious music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky began, the swan took flight--very impressive. When the scrim lifted, the dancing began with a musicality that kept the audience (myself included, of course) rivetted. The group choreography was relatively simple, but the focus and full passion of all the performers in the dramatic work made it most entertaining.
Mention should be given to the designers, all of whom contributed to the success of this ballet: Set & Costume Design, Lez Brotherston; Lighting Design, Paule Constable; Sound Design, Ken Hampton; and Projection Design, Duncan McLean.
James Lovell made a naïve, over-protected, spoiled prince look so sensitive that made aspects of the story (which I will not give away here) believable. Katrina Lyndon, as the Queen, was a perfect mix of duty, ice, nymphomania, and self-absorption to create a fully dimensional mother for this prince. There were other notable performances. I picked Keenan Fletcher out of the corps de ballet for his back and swan arms, his addition to the dance known as the four little swans, and the way he leaped onto the Prince's high bed as the swans descended upon it in the final bedroom scene.
It was Matthew Ball (principal dancer of The Royal Ballet) as The Swan/The Stranger (in traditional Swan Lakes known as Odette/Odile) who stole the show. From the moment he appeared by the lake, it was obvious that he was no delicate swan. His broad shoulders and bare torso to match showed his strength and power, bringing his will to dominance: bold and irreverent. His Stranger, wearing black leather pants, combined elements of the seduction of the traditional Black Swan and the sadism of the Sorcerer with the swagger of Elvis Presley. He truly seduced all the women and the Prince at the ball, where, traditionally, the Prince was to choose a wife. Ball made me think that to see anyone else in this role would be less than, although this may not be true.
Although I had seen this show when it came to New York in 1998, it was as if new to me. Bravo to Matthew Bourne and to the entire cast!
Photo credit: Johan Persson