Swan Lake

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Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Posted: 17 Mar 2010

Picture by Bill Cooper

Swan Lake, Newcastle Theatre Royal, 16 March 2010

 

Animal magnetism

Exhilarating. Mesmerising. I want to see it again tomorrow.

Not my words, but snippets of conversations overheard from fellow audience members after a barnstorming Swan Lake.

This is the production choreographed by Matthew Bourne which replaces the traditional female swans with male dancers (and which featured as the climax of the film Billy Elliott).

More modern dance theatre than classical ballet, it bristled with humour, menace and sensuality.

The muscular swans, stripped to the waist and glistening with sweat, brought a feral quality and raw energy to the swan scenes, contrasting starkly with the formal, stilted life at the palace.

Combining subtle movements – a tilt of the head here, a flick of the neck there – with extravagant leaps and swoops they captured the elegance and strength of the animals and the wild world to which the prince longed to escape.

Sam Archer was appealing in his vulnerability as the Prince, struggling to conform within the prison-like confines of his royal life but coming alive outside the palace walls.

But, inevitably, audience attention focused on Jonathan Ollivier in his dual roles as both the Swan and the Stranger. Admittedly, these are the glamour parts of the piece, but it takes charisma to carry them off successfully – and he’s got it by the bucketload.

As the Swan he exuded passion and vigour tempered with gentleness and subtlety and as the Stranger he was compelling, mixing macho swagger with technical brilliance as he charmed every character in the palace. Talk about animal magnetism.

The whole cast shone both as an ensemble and as individuals (Maddy Brennan as the Girlfriend brought some lovely light touches) against a strong, simple bold set swinging from the prince’s outsize bed, the palace, the street (featuring a giant Swan Vestas poster), a seedy Sixties-style night club, the city park and back again.

This production, with some tweaks here and there, has been hugely successful in the UK and America, winning multiple awards down its 15-year history. The contemporary mood combined with innovative choreography and Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score puts a mark in the sand. The piece sets the standard as the most electrifying Swan Lake you’re likely to see: I can’t imagine delicate swans in tutus and pointes cutting it for me now.

Exhilarating. Mesmerising. I want to see it again tomorrow.

Anne Graham

 

 

 

 


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