Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake - The Bristol Hippodrome

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake - The Bristol Hippodrome

‘When you do dance, I wish you a wave o' the sea, that you might ever do nothing but that’ Act IV, Scene III, The Winter’s Tale

As we sat in the Hippodrome theatre eagerly waiting for Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake to begin there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. Was this because I had two Pinkmans’ doughnuts in my bag (Honeycomb and chocolate brownie, of course) ready to be devoured in the interval? Or was it because we were about to watch one of the most acclaimed choreographers and directors adapt the iconic Swan Lake ballet? I’d like to imagine it was a mixture of the two.

Tchaikovsky’s classic centres on a timeless love story between the Prince and a princess who has been cursed to be a swan. In Matthew Bourne’s version, the young Prince wants to break away from his royal responsibilities but still yearns for the attention and affection of his mother, all while being haunted by nightmares of swans.

The power of the menacing male swan ensemble

The power of the menacing male swan ensemble

Sir Matthew Bourne is hailed as the UK’s most popular and successful artistic director. With a host of awards, a credits list truly incomparable, and the worldwide success of his ‘New Adventures’ dance company, the audience knew that Bourne would deliver: this was going to be a night to remember, and oh boy were they right. His combination of traditional and contemporary dance intertwined with glimpses of comedic relief had the audiences in fits of giggles and then in awe-inspired silence. It was a true mastery of emotional manipulation.  

Visually the performance was stunning. Not just the effortless grace of each dancer or the silent and seamless lifts that framed the stage but the sheer volume and variety of moves sometimes meant you didn’t know where to look. We were spoilt for choice. The scene at the Swank Club demonstrated this perfectly as the stage erupted with a contemporary Latin dance whilst the protagonist attempted to find a partner. It was the type of scene you could watch over and over again, each time seeing a new move or expression.

The choreography was tight, varied and executed without fault. A special mention must go to Carrie Willis whose light hearted performance as the Girlfriend provided the audience with some much needed respite compared to the intensity of the bold and athletic Swan. The Swan played by Will Bozier, who shone throughout. The power of the menacing male swan ensemble was further complemented by the lighting which used shadows to amplify the number in the bevy (apparently the collective noun) of swans.

Great choreography, great food, great company. All in all, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was a fantastic way to spend a Tuesday evening and the perfect introduction for anyone looking to be enticed into the world of ballet.


5 stars

Joseph Salem