Review Swan Lake, Mayflower


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Swan Lake



Review: Swan Lake – Birmingham Royal Ballet at Mayflower.

Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 

Choreography: Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright

Kevin Gover watches the most elegant of swans.

(Images: Roy Smiljanic, Andrew Ross)

There’s no denying it. Once you hear THAT oboe in Swan Lake, with THAT tune, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. This performance at a packed auditorium at the Mayflower was no exception, and brightened up January for everyone who went along.

Music that you know and love, stunning costumes and beautiful dancing from Principals Céline Gittens and Tyrone Singleton right through to the cygnets and Swan Maidens, the Birmingham Royal Ballet has it all in bucketloads.

Swan Lake

The transformation of the set during the first three-minute ‘pause’ from castle to lakeside by moonlight was so startling that I heard audible gasps from people in the audience around me.

The ballroom scene in Act 3 was grand, bold and brash. The huge stage at the Mayflower ensured you could have 30 people on stage yet still have tons of room for grand entrances, pointing, waving and, quite frankly, lots of showing off. If you’ve ever been to the Bolshoi, you’ll know what I mean.

So much so that the appreciative applause from the audience justifiably broke out mid-routine in places here for Céline and Tyrone. On top we had fantastic Russian-style dances, a Neapolitan dance and Spanish dance… Act 3 is worth the entrance fee alone.

Swan Lake

The costumes here were just stunning, and many of them are now 40 years old and have their own storage and transportation. The production was designed in 1981 by acclaimed director and designer Philip Prowse.

As I looked around, I was delighted to see the number of children in the audience, bearing in mind this was a school night.

For some, no doubt, it was a first, second or early continuing visit to the theatre, and what a fantastic ‘show and tell’ this will have made. I was equally delighted to see a special section in the programme devoted entirely to children and which explains the story at their level. A bit like how Mrs Wilkinson explains it to Billy Elliot when he asks to put a tape on in the car!

Swan Lake

The Company is also giving dance students of the future an opportunity to perform alongside their own dancers in specially created performances called ‘Swan Lake Dreams’ in Southampton, Birmingham and Plymouth. They too will use the amazing set. What an incredible and generous opportunity for them.

Swan Lake

Back to this performance, and an impeccable orchestra with credits and individual worldwide experience as long as your arm merely added to the delight. Conductor Paul Murphy’s direction of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia led to warm, generous and heartfelt applause at the end.

And whoever thought of the way to start Act 4 (which I won’t spoil) – well, that was just pure genius.

This production of Swan Lake continues after the Mayflower right through until April,  moving on to the Birmingham Hippodrome, The Lowry in Salford, the Sunderland Empire and the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. Tell your friends around the country to grab a ticket!