Matthew Bourne has brought Swan Lake to Glasgow’s Kings Theatre, a truly enchanting evening of spectacular dance in his very unique interpretation of the world’s most famous and beloved ballet.
Matthew Bourne’s reputation precedes him. He is one of the most talented Choreographers in the business, he is known as the UK’s most popular and successful Choreographer/Director. He is the creator of the world’s longest running ballet production, a five-time Olivier Award winner, and the only British Director to have won the Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography.
Bourne’s Swan Lake is now in its eighteenth year. It’s hard to believe that it was originally only intended for a two-week season at Sadler’s Wells. The choreographer caused quite an uproar when he announced that there would be a flock of male swans rather than the iconic female swan maidens.
According to Bourne, “The idea of a male swan makes complete sense to me. The strength, the beauty, the enormous wingspan of these creatures suggests to the musculature of a male dancer more readily than a ballerina in her white tutu.”
When you hear this side of the argument you understand that it does hold an element of truth, what it also does is give Bourne’s production a completely unique angle. His interpretation has generated both positive and negative responses from the audience. The negativity comes from having a man in the role of lead swan which puts gay love at centre stage, and this production is often described as homoerotic. Bourne argues that surely just “erotic” would be a better way to view it.
The three most challenging roles in the production are the roles of the Swan, The Prince, and the Queen. Chris Trenfield takes on the iconic role of the Swan. It’s a two sided character as Chris also gets to play the role of the “Stranger” in Act Three. Liam Mower made his debut in the role of The Prince. He was recently seen in Sleeping Beauty in his first Principal role as Count Lilac and was the original Olivier award-winning star of the West End’s Billy Elliot. He joined New Adventures in 2011, and, following Sleeping Beauty, he joined this production in January 2014.
The Queen was portrayed by one of New Adventures most popular leading ladies, Saranne Curtin. She is one of the most important dancers ever to have worked with New Adventures, having created the leading roles of Lana in The Car Man, Sugar in the 2012 revival and 2013 film of Nutcracker! and Glenda in Play Without Words. She was in the original cast of Swan Lake (as The Italian Princess) and comes out of retirement to once again play The Queen, a role for which she received much praise in several UK and International tours of this production.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fabulous costumes created by the Tony and Olivier award-winning designer Lez Brotherston. He had quite a task on his hands. He had to create costumes that would transform the men into dancing male swans, a role traditionally played by women. He managed it nonetheless and the result was a beautiful, mesmerizing, graceful creature. And this is a clear indication of the genius that is Lez Brotherston, presented with such a great challenge he managed to rise to the occasion.
As with all of Bourne’s productions there were many comical elements. And without doubt the scenes with the Prince’s love interest “The Girlfriend” were the most comical, and she certainly steals the show. The popular role of “The Girlfriend” was played by Carrie Johnson who was last seen in Nutcracker! in 2011/12 and will also be seen as The Moth Maiden and French Princess in this revival.
For us though the powerful portrayal of the Swan was totally spectacular. Chris Trenfield did the role justice, and his transformation into the “Stranger” for Act Three was completely enthralling. He had us on the edge of our seats completely mesmerised.
MATTHEW BOURNE’S SWAN LAKE is directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne with Set and Costume Design by Lez Brotherston and Lighting Design by Rick Fisher.