Tickets are available for the first showing of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at 7pm on Monday 19th. To see the trailer visit the Theatre Club page, or for a gallery of images see this earlier post. If you’ve never seen a ballet before, this is the one to see. Licensed bar, ice creams and chat start at 6:30pm for a 7pm start.
MATTHEW BOURNE, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF NEW ADVENTURES, TALKS ABOUT SWAN LAKE
Your Swan Lake was created in 1995, but do you remember the first time that you had the idea of a dancing male swan?
I’m not totally sure, but I seem to remember day-dreaming several years before I had even formed my own company and wondering what that gender change would do to the story. However, at that time, creating a new production of Swan Lake was not something that I ever felt was even a remote possibility for me. When that production did become a reality, following the unexpected success of my Nutcracker! for Opera North in 1992, the idea of the male swan – powerful, wild and dangerous – returned and started to make a lot of sense to me. It was the key to making a new Swan Lake, one that could possibly wipe away those powerful images of the ballerina swan that were so embedded in the psyche of dance lovers and even the wider public.
Your company at the time, Adventures in Motion Pictures, was very small; did you experience any difficulty in finding your creative team and a larger cast of dancers?
Yes, my company at the time was made up of only six dancers so creating a new full-length Swan Lake was certainly an ambitious, possibly crazy, prospect. My first stroke of luck, and one that changed the entire direction of the production, was the casting of Adam Cooper as The Swan. Adam had seen my production of Highland Fling the year before and had let it be known, via a friend, that he would like to work with me on something. I knew Adam’s work with The Royal Ballet (where he had recently been promoted to principal) and I was a fan. The idea of bringing in this “creature from another world” was the perfect impetus for creating something very different for me at the time.
The opening night at Sadler’s Wells on 9 November 1995 has now gone down in dance history. What are your personal memories of that momentous occasion?
Word had got out that I was imagining the piece with male dancers as the swans and, though it’s hard to figure now, audiences could just not imagine what a dancing “male” swan might look like. So strong was the image of the female ballerina in tutu, pointe shoes and a feathery head-dress that many visualised the male dancers in the same costume, essentially in drag! It didn’t seem to cross anybody’s mind that there was such a thing as a “male” swan. So, when Adam Cooper made his first entrance as The Swan, followed by a flock of wild, menacing, highly masculine swans, the surprise, even shock, in that first night audience was palpable.
The production has been regularly revived in the last two decades. What do you see as its legacy and influence in that time?
It’s clear that, along with Billy Elliot (with which we are forever, happily linked through the film’s breath-taking finale), it has influenced the decision making of many young men to look to dance as a profession. For the first time with our latest revival, many of our new cast were not born when we created the show 23 years ago! Many of them grew up watching this piece and dreaming of being a swan.
The 2018 revival is a brand-new production with new designs, lighting designs and some revised choreography. Why did you and original designer, Lez Brotherston, feel that the time was right for a fresh look?
Over the years we have learned that productions actually become more popular the more you bring them back and give them to new generations to enjoy. We are now very conscious of this legacy. Lez and I wanted to have the opportunity to question a little what we had done over 20 years ago and bring a fresh eye to the whole production; to make the most of new theatrical technology and to reinvent the show for the decades to come. New lighting design from our New Adventures associate artist, Paule Constable, and much revised choreography also makes this revival something closer in fact to a new production. For those of you that are worried to hear this, fear not! The differences are mainly in the detail and it retains all the elements that make this show so special to so many people. I trust that this swan will continue to fly, inspire and lift up audiences for many years to come.