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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 17 JANUARY 2006—It seems such a shame that Paris had to wait ten years to see Matthew Bourne's much praised, much vaunted modern version of Swan Lake. Created in 1995, at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, the work, which has won countless awards and triumphed in the West End of London as well as on Broadway, transforms the central figure of the Swan Princess into a man, Odile becoming a cynical mystery man in tight-fitting black leather trousers who seduces everyone around.

Matthew Bourne: Swan Lake

Bourne also wittily transposes the action to Buckingham Palace with all its protocol, where the youthful heir to the throne has a mother who bears more than just a passing resemblance to the young Princess Margaret.

Ten years ago, when  Odette/Odile was strongly interpreted by  Adam Cooper, ex-Royal Ballet principal, as were several other members of the cast, the work was a tremendous hit, but with time its force and originality have been diluted. Maybe one had been led to expect too much since the DVD* of the ballet, with Cooper and Scott Ambler as the swan and the prince respectively, and with fourteen lyrical, viril, violent swans, the bad boys, is superb.

Matthew Bourne: Swan Lake

It is a work where much depends on the interpretation of the central characters as well as upon the dance qualities of the swans, bare-chested and bare-footed men.  In Paris, in December at the Théâtre du Mogador, where the company was performing seven days a week, sometimes twice a day for almost two months, the audience sniggered at all the jokes and admired Lez Brotherston's scenery and costumes, but it was less a moving version of Swan Lake than a long-running musical comedy based around the subject. Even Tchaikovsky's music was jollied up.

So although it's still a good show giving plenty of laughs, many were disappointed by the lack-lustre quality of the dancing and glazed eyes of some of the swans, the exception being the dance of the four baby swans which was brilliantly done. All praise also to Saranne Curtin as the Queen, an immense actress.

Matthew Bourne: Swan Lake

The choreography is powerful and theatrical, but as clever, witty and original as it was, the ending in Paris left me indifferent. Maybe a little complacency has crept into Matthew Bourne's company and the dancing has become somewhat stale.


*Adventures in Motion Pictures presents Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake with the complete West End Show. Matthew Bourne's Olivier award -winning production.


Patricia Boccadoro is the Dance Editor of

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