21st Feb, 2019

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake is a mind-blowing must-see

Catherine Thompson 7th Feb, 2019 Updated: 7th Feb, 2019

MATTHEW Bourne’s somber yet deliciously dark reimagining of Swan Lake not only confounded my rookie preconceptions of ballet but left me completely and utterly spellbound.

With not a leotard or tutu in sight, I was blown away by the startling twists and turns right from the opening nightmare sequence.

The only time it came close to my shameful prejudices was during a self-parodying scene when dainty ballerina butterflies danced the equivalent of channel five daytime TV – beautifully I might add.

Stand out performances included – ‘The Girlfriend’ – the lower class love interest whose novel ability to combine graceful and goofy injected unexpected comedy.

Meanwhile the Prince – set apart by his pyjama costume – gave a stunning performance with his movements traversing from playful naivety to heart-wrenching emotion and finally his feverish descent into madness.

And the insidious Stranger was a worthy villain, seamlessly transforming from the Prince’s rival to his tortured fantasy – The Swan.

Not to mention the game-changing, male ensemble was majestic as it was powerful. Their writhing bodies and twisting heads represented an imminent danger reflected in choreography – from seedy nightclub to ballroom sequences – throughout the production.

Stunning set designs, courtesy of Lez Brotherston and Paule Constable, complemented each scene including the haunting lake itself framed by white, skeletal trees and a full moon. Others, particularly in the first half, were vibrant with popping sets striking a stark contrast with the febrile energy of the later sequences.

While I haven’t seen the classical production, Bourne’s rendition left me positively reeling – as though I was being treated to a personal encore staged in my brain.

And not only did I leave a full convert, but wondering whether 32 is too old to become a ballet dancer.

Swan Lake is showing at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday February 16 with tickets from £21.

Visit birminghamhippodrome.com to book.

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