Bourne’s new identity for Swan Lake
swan lake, lyceum
First staged in 1995, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake went on to become the longest running ballet in the West End and on Broadway and remains his best-known work.
By replacing the female corps-de-ballet with a menacing male ensemble, it shattered conventions, turned tradition upside down and took the dance world by storm.
Now Bourne and designer Lez Brotherston have created an exciting re-imagining of the classic production for a whole new generation.
“I wouldn’t say we’re changing it enormously but refreshing it for this next period of time,” says Bourne. “It may change again in the future, who knows, but I think whilst we’re still excited about the piece and we feel we’ve got this opportunity, so it seems a great chance to do it.”
A new lighting designer, Paule Constable, who had never seen the show before, and a completely new cast provide a new perspective.
“There are lots of new dancers who bring their own interpretations to the piece, as they do with all our shows and that keeps the pieces fresh and alive,” says Bourne. “I certainly don’t think audiences who already love the piece will be in any way disappointed.’
Bourne compares how it was first received.. “I think it’s underestimated sometimes how far we’ve moved on with this piece in the time it’s been on,” he notes.
“When we first started to do it, we had audiences walking out when the Prince and the Swan started dancing together. We had little girls in tears that it wasn’t performed with the tutus and pointe shoes, and things like that. We also had a slightly aggressive attitude towards it from some members of the audience and some people refused to come and see it at all.
“It got dubbed ‘the gay Swan Lake’, which was not what the aim was, but it certainly was a story within it that was very meaningful for gay audiences, and I celebrate that. I did then, and I do now. It is a bit more wide-ranging than that too however, and it can really be interpreted in many ways.
It’s accepted now by a much wider audience who come to see the show and rather than be shocked any element of it, I think they find it uplifting
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is at the Lyceum Sheffield from Tuesday to Saturday, May 21-25.