Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at the Mayflower Theatre Southampton Review

19-23 February 2019


Reviewed by Katie Allen

I’d never seen a full-length ballet before, only a medley of the classics when I was a teenager, and I was intrigued when I saw Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was coming to our local theatre.

I knew the original story involved a princess that was turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer so I was interested to see how a male corps de ballet would interpret the classic.

I wasn’t disappointed. Everything from the dramatic but simple scenery, the innovative lighting and use of shadows, the traditional music and of course the dancing was perfect.

I never thought I’d find myself laughing at a ballet. The dancers were so adept at telling the story with their bodies that the lack of dialogue did not mean the narrative dropped. Even when the principle characters were dancing in sync with the ensemble you could still understand their character and motivation with each step they made.

In a change to the traditional story this version focuses on a Prince and his relationship with an overbearing, but distant, mother and his turmoil over finding true love.

When he discovers his “girlfriend” had been paid off by his mother’s private secretary he writes a suicide note and intends to throw himself into the lake. He is saved by a swan who had previously appeared to him in a dream.

This part of the ballet is the most famous section with 15 bare chested, male dancers playing the swans showing their playful, fun, menacing and energetic personalities. The moves are beautiful and graceful yet being played by men there is a power and strength and sometimes terrifying element.

The whole company was tremendous, but I’d like to pick out Carrie Willis who was The Girlfriend. She played the role with such humour and personality that I found myself trying to find her on the stage to check out how her character was reacting to the story.

I found the whole show emotional and powerful and I really enjoyed it. I’d highly recommend catching the tour if you can.

The Mayflower Theatre is very close to Southampton Railway station and there are quite a few car parks nearby. We tend to use the Grosvenor Square car park but use the outside part if you can as the multi storey can get very busy when the show finishes. It’s £3 flat fee after 6pm.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £24 to £47.50 (booking fees may apply).

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 19-23 February 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 02380 711811.

Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811

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