Theatre Review: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: The List

Format: Ballet
Genre: Drama
Date: April 9 2019
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Every person who goes to watch a ballet performance will describe the same things: the beautiful, elegant female lead, the very masculine hero, the corps de ballet dancing en pointe in romantic, beautiful tutus, the orchestra playing the beautiful score throughout. In fact, in this performance, the only thing that stayed true to the stereotypical ballet performance was the music.

Olivier award-winning Sir Matthew Bourne is arguably the greatest choreographer in the industry at the moment. He has a talent of taking a story and completely altering the scenario, whilst still retaining the true meaning behind it, with innovative choreography.

Bourne’s company New Adventures regularly helps with the development of young dance talent. They have recently launched Swan School to help dancers with the audition process for the show, and around ten years ago, they created a production of Lord Of The Flies to help young men develop their love of ballet. Some of the performers in the current cast were also in Lord Of The Flies, showing that the company does keep encouraging and helping young performers right up to the time they decide to become professional.

The main difference between this version of Swan Lake and the traditional ballet is the change of the lead roles into males. All the swans are played by men throughout, and although around half the cast are still female, the emphasis is definitely more on the men and their masculinity throughout the show.

Although the show was revived in 2018, with some new choreography and lighting designs, the majority of the show has not changed since it was first produced by Bourne in 1995. It certainly has not lost its popularity though, as was proved by the almost-full audience on the opening night in Liverpool. It was great to see a lot of young boys in the audience; this production definitely encourages males to look to dance as a profession.

Playing the lead role of the Prince is Liam Mower, with the company since 2011, and he carries the show. Alongside Max Westwell as the Swan/Stranger, the duo have a brilliant stage presence throughout, and although the stage is always full of activity, all eyes were on these two characters. The choreography for their duets perfects compliments each of the dancers.

Freya Field as The Girlfriend is a very likeable character throughout, and had the audience laughing just from her presence on the stage. One of the stand-out scenes was actually when the Royals, along with The Girlfriend, are watching a traditional, dismal ballet; Field had the audience in stitches, as she answered her mobile phone, rustled sweet wrappers and eventually dropped her bag, something which unfortunately has become the norm in modern-day theatre!

The performance was virtually faultless throughout. The timing of the dancers in the swan chorus was impeccable; there was not one wobble or unstretched foot throughout.

One of the most amazing things about Swan Lake is the music; most of it is identical to Tchaikovsky’s original music for the show. Most of the audience will have recognised a lot of the tunes throughout, and the music filled the Empire Theatre, bringing the drama to the show.

All in all, this production, although it has been running for almost 25 years, remains a spectacle to watch, and is still managing to fill theatres. This is a great show for all the family, especially young boys for them to see that boys can do ballet.

Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect