BWW Review: Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE a Joyful Holiday Treat
A New Adventures Production/Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake The Legend Returns/music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky/directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne/Ahmanson Theatre/through January 5, 2020
In training for the acting profession yours truly studied ballet, and I was always the first to throw the line off. I could not dance...ballet or any other form. I know so little about dance, Then how can I write about it? Well, when Matthew Bourne is involved, I am envelopped in magic. What a treat to attend a Matthew Bourne event! Yes, his ballet productions are events ... filled with magical storytelling without a word of dialogue. Like singers or actors, the ensemble tell the story through movement, with Tchaikovsky's gorgeous music to back it up. It's breathtakingly beautiful. Anger, violence and at the opposite extreme, sensual appeal, blatant or subdued, and love are the most readily recognized emotions in this art form.
Bourne divides his production into four acts with an intermission between Acts II and III. Plotwise, for those unfamiliar, Bourne has taken the classic Swan Lake played out with female swans and converted the dancers to male. When it first premiered this all male ensemble of swans defied convention. For Bourne, the strength and stamina of the moving swan is better displayed through male musculature. The Prince (Andrew Monaghan)* is unloved by his mother the Queen (Nicole Kabera)* who disapproves of his estranged behavior. The Prince needs love, and his latent homosexuality shows itself to us as he dreams about, fantasizes and watches a bevy of swans at the lake in the park. He is at first welcomed by The Swan (Will Bozier)* in Act II, rejected by him as the Swan shows up as the Stranger in Act III, seducing every woman in sight, and then reconnected divinely with him in the finale of Act IV.
For me Act II's scene at the lake with the famous pas de deux under a full moon takes one's breath away. Bourne's choreography of the male swans leaping across the stage and back again various times is incredible to watch. The men are barefoot as they move with lightning speed, and to maintain this almost superhuman energy is nothing short of amazing. Act III's Royal Ball is also dynamically choreographed. Bozier and Monaghan once again dominate the scene, but all the female dancers essaying the roles of the foreign princesses are also stunning to behold.
Praise to the entire company. One standout is the Girlfriend (Katrina Lyndon)*, who plays the role to the hilt. This is a slutty commoner who disrupts the viewing of the play at the Opera House, drops her purse onstage and talks on her cell phone during the performance. She is wildly funny...and yes, there is such great humor displayed throughout the evening.
Kudos to vibrant scenic and costume design from Lez Brotherston, to fine lighting from Paule Constable, to Ken Hampton for his brilliant sound design and to projection design from Duncan McLean, which serves to greatly enhance most of the scenes.
Swan Lake symbolizes more than the search for love. It is.finding the freedom to spread one's wings and fly, soar to the heavens, where pure spirituality takes control and assures eternal happiness.
*All these roles are covered by at least two dancers. Those I mention in this review danced Thursday December 5.
(photo credit:Craig Schwartz)