Saturday, June 22, 2024

Swan Lake, Corn Exchange – a daring wild ride

Back at the Corn Exchange for another Matthew Bourne cinema screening – this time, the 2019 Sadler’s Wells production of Swan Lake!

It’s a powerhouse performance, with endless energy and unremitting momentum.  More than 25 years since this production changed British dance forever, it has lost nothing of its power to startle and impress.  In an age perhaps a little more tolerant of different preferences and lifestyles, it is easy to forget quite how daring it is in recasting the original fairytale.

Set in a Court of the most stultifying and claustrophobic protocol, every detail of life for our repressed and unhappy Prince (Liam Mower) is mapped out; he does what he’s told, how and when.  He can command regulated attention but can’t command his mother’s love.  His icily restrained mother (Nicole Kabera) rejects – even viciously rejects – every appeal from her son for the touch of human kindness, straightening the Prince’s shoulders if they droop the slightest bit.  The repulsed, celeb-seeking Girlfriend (Katrina Lyndon) is hilariously inappropriate.

Enter the Swan (Will Bozier), who may or may not be a flight of fancy of the traumatised – and, after an unsuccessful trip to a Soho nightclub, substance-abused – imagination, and the Prince falls in love.  Cruelly, purposely and in deliberate detail, he is rebuffed when the Swan’s alter ego materialises. The final act is a tumbling, relentless, headlong plummet that ends with tragedy.

The Prince and the Swan are exactly as they should be.  He, a slight, lithe, dreamy character – longing for love.  The Swan; everything he isn’t.  Powerful, wild, intoxicating – a free spirit.  The Queen chills your very soul.

And these are hissing, edgy, stampy feet, break-your-arm-in-one swoop of their wings swans.  Even the love duet of Prince and Swan permits for almost the whole of it only some gentle leaning; togetherness of spirit rather than consumption of each other.  The glorious sounds of Tchaikovsky’s original score keeps the story marching at pace.

Fans of Swan Lake can enjoy it at The Corn Exchange again in November, when Crown Ballet presents its production, and in April next year with a live broadcast by the Royal Ballet – go to the website for details.  For fans of Matthew Bourne, his company is touring with Edward Scissor Hands from November this year but only gets as close as Woking in February and Southampton in March.