Swan Lake in Sheffield is even more breathtaking

Such is the sheer, imaginative power of Matthew Bourne’s version of Swan Lake – now incredibly almost 25 years old – that it’s difficult to remember what this classic ballet was like before; with a female corps de ballet and ballerinas in tutus.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 4:14 pm
SWANLAKE by Bourne Choreography - Matthew Bourne, Designs - Let Brotherston, Lighting - Paule Constable, New Adventures, 2018, Plymouth, Royal Theatre Plymouth, Credit: Johan Persson/

His re-telling of the much-loved story and casting male dancers as swans – powerful, strong, aggressive, animalistic, yet capable of enormous of enormous grace and beauty – seems entirely right.

Bourne as director and choreographer and long-time designer Lez Brotherston have updated their Swan Lake for this 25th anniversary tour and if anything there’s even more ramped up drama, more emotion and more histrionics than in the past.

Dominic North’s Prince is a repressed, lonely figure rejected by his cold, unfeeling mother, trapped in the rigid protocol of the court and looking for love and meaning. He finds it one moonlight night in a park with an ethereal flock of white birds. North’s slight, delicate physique is in contrast to Will Bozier’s almost brutish, muscular Swan, a figment of the Prince’s fevered imagination, and with whom he shares some passionate pas de deux.

Adam Cooper will always be synonymous with the role but Bozier does his absolute best to make the Swan his own, hissing, sweating, strutting and sexy. And the ballroom scene in which, as the mysterious Stranger, he emerges moodily in black leather trousers to taunt the Prince and seduce the Queen and most of the guests is, whew, breath-taking.

Swan Lake has all the attributes of an enduring crowd-pleaser – extravagant costumes, clever choreography, magnificent performances imbued with wit, humour and pathos, and a mass of heaving passion and emotion set to Tchaikovsky’s famous score. By the end the packed press night audience was completely wrung out and on its feet in appreciation. Peak swan.

Jane Tadman