18-22 February 2014
Reviewed by Nicola McCallum
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake does not need explaining to most. In my 25 years of going to the theatre to watch the ballet I have yet to come across someone who has not heard of the iconic Swan Lake, and I was surprised to find when I have been telling friends and associates that I was going to watch Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake people knew that I was going to watch the “Male version of swan lake”.
The King’s Theatre in Glasgow is an impressive building situated in the Charring Cross area of Glasgow with a rail station, major bus stop and large multi-story car park situated all within a 5 minute walk of the main entrance. Although the theatre is in its 100th year the building itself is still impressive. You can tell it has been recently restored but it has not lost any of its original character. It has been modernised to a high standard, seating is generous and there is great attention to detail throughout. Each seat has the traditional binoculars which can be hired at a reasonable rate of £1 per performance, with drinks being able to be purchased at the bar and the tradition of the ice-cream vendor available at the interval. The stand out quality however was the staff. There were plenty of staff on hand to deal with requests and everyone was well presented, friendly and happy to chat and deal with all requests and questions. The theatre manages to create an excellent setting which allows the viewer to enjoy each show to its full potential.
I have heard many things about Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake but nothing prepared me for what I was about to witness. Swan Lake is known as a very traditional ballet but I believe Matthew Bourne has created more of a contemporary piece which I believe appeals to a much wider audience. From the first scene I notice it is not an all male performance, there is not a pointe shoe in sight and there is a very surprising injection of humour.
The role of the Prince, danced by the talented Liam Mower, captivated the audience as he gracefully danced in an attempt to try and win affection from his cold mother. As the relationship between mother and son unfolded we were then introduced to the less than suitable girlfriend. Carrie Johnson was cast in this role and it was refreshing to see a female in a comic role. She delivered this performance with great comic timing and I was utterly captivated in watching her whenever she was onstage. The moment when she is in the royal box with the prince and his mother eating her sweets, before interrupting the performance with the ringing of her mobile phone is a something I will remember for many years to come.
The first act if full of light and shade from the fantastic comedy moment of the theatre visit, to the dark moments in the Prince’s private Quarters. The chorography excels throughout to the stage where I almost forget I am watching a dance performance. Watching the performers dance a swing/ jive style routine to traditional Tchaikovsky is something to behold and I have already forgotten almost everything about the original swan lake that I have grown up with.
Just before the interval is when we eventually meet the Swans. I almost don’t know where to begin in my description of what I see next. Chris Trenfield in his portrayal of the Swan shows strength and power without losing any of the grace. The mannerisms, costumes and the chorography supplement each other and the audience get lost in the story of love and acceptance between the characters of the Prince and the Swan. The bond displayed between these two characters is a testament to not only their dance ability but also in the acting ability. The impact of the flock of swans is something to behold, it feels so natural seeing these masculine men displaying strength and grace that I struggle to believe that it is a concept that has only been introduced in recent times.
Act two sees a change in the atmosphere as the moments of humour are replaced by more dramatic events. A more emotional act where the Prince meets the Swan in the human form and the despair caused when he is cast aside in favour of his cold hearted mother. Trenfield and Mower manage to draw the audience into their intimate relationship and we feel all their emotion and pain especially during the final scene where the troupe of swans attack the Prince and turn on their leader.
The curtain call enabled the audience to give their feedback on this performance and even though this was the opening night performance where audiences are a little more reserved, the audience were on their feet and rapturous with their applause. It also was apparent that the cast enjoyed this performance as much as the audience with their faces lit up with beaming smiles taking in the response from the audience.
Overall Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is something not to be missed and is something that will be remembered in many years all for the right reasons. I would encourage everyone to see this performance even if you are not a fan of the traditional Swan Lake. Every part of this performance is exquisite from the staging, choreography, costumes to the music. Most of all the acting and the dancing are just out of this world, the story is told so beautifully by every member of cast and it is evident how this has been so critically acclaimed throughout the world. To me this is the best thing I have even seen at the theatre and less than 24 hours later I have already booked tickets to see this performance again. The easiest 5 out 5 I have ever given for a review.
Tickets cost from £16.90 to £46.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
For more information or to book tickets click here.