Review: Matthew Bourne Swan Lake


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Review Matthew Bourne Swan Lake, Mayflower

Let’s begin, if I may, at the end.

A packed Mayflower auditorium and a standing ovation impeccably observed by it seemed everyone in the house. As I looked round, it was sustained, warm and universal.


What had preceded this ovation was two hours’ joy for everyone in the audience, two hours of intense concentration on the part of the cast and crew.

And when I say intense, boy I mean intense, particularly the male swans… the ‘hissing’, the movement, the interaction.


What makes this even better is that you almost never know who is going to play the part of which character until you turn up, such is the cast rotation to keep things fresh. Manchester City eat your heart out!


On this particular occasion, the part of the Swan was played by Max Westwell and the Prince by Dominic North. When the two of them appeared on stage after the finale, hand-in-hand, bathed in white light on the huge stage – well, the place just erupted.


The constant reference to ‘swan’ was not lost on me… ‘Don’t Feed The Swans’ here… the logo on a pack of Swan Vestas there… and even the name of the Swank club began with… well, you catch my drift.


Further amusement came with corgis on wheels, and the fantastic performance-within-a-performance.

Of course, this adaptation has not always drawn smiles. In his programme notes, Matthew Bourne reminisces about the walkouts at the premiere back in 1995 (yes, 24 years ago!) – at the audience and critics being confronted with two males dancing with each other and 14 male dancers playing the swans. But the times, and attitudes have changed.


The original score of Tchaikovsky has no less than 46 available sequences, so it’s fairly easy to tell the story in manageable segments. The more well-known tunes were also given humour at times, which was very welcome. I would have loved to have seen a full orchestra, as performed elsewhere, but I wasn’t put off by what we got, because it’s beautifully recorded and presented.


I also loved the swan animation. You’ll see.


In fact, I loved everything and I’d love to see it again. Sir Matthew has a way of making you feel like that…

Kevin Gover

Images: Johan Persson