Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome


I know that I have been living under a rock (it has made my hair grubby), but I hadn’t until last night, seen what is arguably Matthew Bourne’s most famous production.

I saw Cinderella (-pretty good incidentally) and Edward Scissor Hands (-Beautiful), but the only part of Swan Lake I’d seen was the odd clip and that moment at the end of Billy Elliot.

Anyway, here are my thoughts:

The Cygnet’s dance, with it’s ungainly steps was very cute, the characterisation of all the swans in gestural terms was precise, clever, witty. I always love a play within a play/ dance within a dance/ movie within a movie type contrivance and the ballet section was very funny. The ballroom scene was great, so smart. But the final section in the Prince’s bedroom was absolutely unforgettable; so beautiful, so disturbing, I could not move my eyes from the stage. I cried.

I had not been anticipating the psychological depth of the piece. The hackneyed characterisation of it as an ‘all-male production’ had had a reductive effect.

This made me want to begin a series on the cultural, artistic characterisation of the sexuality of swans, initially in the work if Raqib Shaw, and in representations of Leda and the swan; I’m sure that more will soar to mind. I know that I have left my ‘Alternative Alice’s’ series hanging, so this new idea may have to wait a little.

Suffice it to say that this was everything and more than I had come to expect from a Matthew Bourne production.