Bristol Hippodrome

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

March 2019


Swanning around

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake is spectacular - classic, contemporary, comedic – it’s mind-blowing ballet for all.

I have now seen Swan Lake twice, Sleeping Beauty, The Red Shoes, Cinderella and The Car Man and it makes me sleep easy at night to know there are other ballets in the repertoire of this East End genius still to see.

Despite attending a previous production of this Swan Lake, the surprise element is still there, larger than life and filling the stage.

It made me laugh and shriek out loud.

Online journalist Jen Smith, of Chopsy Baby, tweeted: “Oh my days. I cried ugly tears and clapped like a seal.”

Couldn’t agree more and the company took the biggest standing ovation I have witnessed at this theatre and many, many final bows.

The action on stage centres on the royal palace and park.

The latter with its glitzy ballroom and big double bed and the park with its glistening lake and walk-on part for a bag-lady help create the majestic and morbid atmosphere.

The menacing all male corps-de-ballet with their bovver boots attitude, bare chests and bare feet seem to come off a Clockwork Orange set via a wicked hair removal and tattoo salon.

The principal dancers are divine as is the magical music – well, it is Tchaikovsky at his toe-tapping best.

The New Adventures company is on a 32-week tour and opened at the Bristol Hippodrome on Tuesday, March 12, for a five-night run.

From the Billy Elliot finale film moment when star Will Bozier as an agent provocateur springs onto the stage you are mesmerised. He partners newcomer James Lovell, aged 19, (doppelganger for a gauche Prince Charles) who is making his professional debut as the young royal.

One of the best bits is a pas de deux Brokeback Mountain seduction scene – ahh.

Nicole Kabera as the cold-hearted Queen whose only warmth is shown when she is ‘on the pull’ and tarty blonde girlfriend with puffball dress sense Katrina Lyndon both making their debuts in these parts are brilliant. Class wars in action.

Glenn Graham as the private secretary brings the right amount gravitas to his role and reminds me of Channel 4s First Dates French maître d'hôtel Fred Sirieix.

It is more than two decades ago since the opening of the first production of this Swan Lake famous for replacing the original graceful female swans of composer Tchaikovsky’s ballet with men.

Since then I have revelled in the psychological horror film Black Swan In 1995 and for light-relief My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty with the English National Ballet for pre-school children which includes a narrator.

But Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is by far the best.

The thrill of shutter-speed bendy, pointy people – oh and the hilarious ageing cameo of the fan dancer with fag – seen in the illicit basement nightclub which has an advertisement for Swan Vesta matches on the downtown wall.

The music hall scene with its Dr Who creatures – here comes the chopper, hold onto your head (and pink mobile phone ducky) and stop shuffling that chair.

Then there are the angular arms bent at elbow and folded over the heads that mimic the hissing aquatic birds that mate for life. Their story is told in a flying swan video, all lingering visual images.

Flashbulb red carpet moments, shadows dancing, costumes to die/cry for from black silk and leather to multi-coloured frills and white feathers.

It is erudite musical movement all choregraphed for making love to the masses.

What I mean in the last sentence is just sit back and enjoy – no previous experience or knowledge of the technical details of dance is needed.

As an aside I would say at this point that sitting back in the economy class stalls at the Bristol Hippodrome for two and a half hours is not that enjoyable as the new seats have been installed minus any back padding.

Sorry, someone had to say it…

Carol Deacon


Tuesday to Saturday, March 12-16

Evenings at 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinee 2.30pm

Tickets from £19.40 concessions available

To book click HERE

AND HERE IS ONE I DID EARLIER: To read the previous review of this ballet click HERE. Be warned it begins 'Gosh I can’t believe I am saying this but Swan Lake at the Bristol Hippodrome this week is a mix of homoeroticism and humour but then the choreographer is Matthew Bourne'.

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