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BWW Review: MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE, Sadler's Wells

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BWW Review: MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE, Sadler's WellsMatthew Bourne's Swan Lake changed the dance landscape back in 1995 when it first premiered. Any Swan Lake is a juggernaut of a production but Bourne's added layers of storytelling, engaging new characters and unique reimagining for a 21st Century audience cemented a?oeiconica?? status, a word I use sparingly but it's fully justified here. The first in a sequence of Bourne's work to be seen on screen during this time of lockdown which will see releases of Romeo and Juliet and The Car Man, as well as this 2018 production of arguably Bourne's best-known work. " style="float:right" />BWW Review: MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE, Sadler's WellsIt's no exaggeration to say that Sir Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake changed the dance landscape back in 1995 when it first premiered.

Any Swan Lake is a juggernaut of a production, but Bourne's added layers of storytelling, engaging new characters and unique reimagining for a 21st century audience cemented "iconic" status, a word I use sparingly, but which is fully justified here. It's the first in a sequence of Bourne's work to be seen on screen during this time of lockdown - which will include releases of Romeo and Juliet and The Car Man, as well as this 2018 production of arguably Bourne's best-known work.

Liam Mower's elegant Prince features in the lead role and is a tortured soul, continually frustrated by a stuffy life at court, moving from one meaningless engagement to the next. He remains lost until - having convinced himself he will never be worthy of true love, after an ill-fated relationship with Katrina Lyndon's outlandish and often hilarious Girlfriend character - he flees to a park inhabited by a flock of majestic swans. It is here where we finally meet Will Bozier's beguiling and enigmatic lead swan, who, after initially rejecting the Prince, eventually accepts him in a moving duet from the pair.

The lakeside scene is the one that will linger longest in the memory. A flock of bare-chested, barefoot swans, sweat glistening on their backs, whose simultaneous breaths the audience can hear while they dance and jump as a single unit. Tenderness and grace are juxtaposed with vicious physicality.

Beyond the lead roles, Bourne's vision is perfectly cast throughout, with standout performances including Nicola Kabera as the callous Queen, the Prince's stoic mother, who has perfected the art of the lofty strut, a roll of the eye and a steely glare. She is a woman in control, outfitted in flawlessly fitted billowing gowns that sweep along beautifully to Tchaikovsky's score.

The action culminates at a grand ball, where a human manifestation of the earlier seen swan appears to aggressively seduce the Prince's mother. Bozier slinks about in leather trousers and a sinister grin, aware of the disarray he is causing before engaging in a passionate pas de deux with the Prince. We forget how wild two men dancing together was in '95. In the sequence, Bozier and Mower dance with urgency and power, the in-hold choreography providing intensity with their upper bodies whilst remaining gloriously light on their feet.

Once again, Lez Brotherston outdoes himself with clean, eye-catching set designs that effortlessly switch from opulent ballroom scenes to the moonlit lakeside and back again. Core props are cleverly recycled: the regal headboard of the Prince's bed doubles as the royal balcony where the Queen surveys her subjects. All this, as well as the neurotic, robotic corgi dog that has a surprise in store. Paule Constable's lighting is also effective, menacing in the right moments but romantic and atmospheric in the key meeting of the Prince and the Swan.

Ballet purists should beware this is no regular Lake. Tchaikovsky's score has been chopped and changed a little to fit the story, there are no 32 fouettés and no BLACK SWAN in the traditional sense. But Bourne' work is best viewed as a standalone, not to be compared to the classical favourite. There are moments of breathtaking drama, storming ensemble dancing and a moving conclusion on both stage and screen to be enjoyed.

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake is on Sky Arts, Saturday, 25 April at 8pm, and on Sky Catch-up until 19 May, 2020. It's also on Now TV until 19 May, 2020


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