Still spectacular: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Sadler’s Wells, London
December 12, 2018

Jessica Wilson

The opening white and grey swan graphic that greets audiences as they settle down for Matthew Bourne’s still spectacular Swan Lake, sets the rather melancholy feel to the whole performance. While there are moments of lightness and comic relief, sadness and a feeling of dejection runs deep.

As the Prince, Liam Mower is a delight, embodying every inch a rejected young man, any feeling of happiness or joy quickly overshadowed by his own confusion at his mother’s behaviour. Mower appears ever-youthful, so light on his feet and so genuine in his approach to Bourne’s heart wrenching choreography. He is a perfect match for Matthew Ball’s Swan. Ball offering a worldly and all-encompassing being that is the antithesis of the Prince’s naivety and childlike, limited vision of the world that he inhabits.

The crestfallen Prince’s mood is highlighted further by the haughty, aloof Queen (Nicole Kabera), and the seeming ignorance of the ensemble as they twirl their way through the tale, the twists and turns of the plot offering constant intrigue.

Matthew Ball as The Swan and Liam Mower as The Princein Matthew Bourne's Swan LakePhoto Johan Persson
Matthew Ball as The Swan and Liam Mower as The Prince
in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Photo Johan Persson

Mower and Ball deliver hugely heartfelt performances in different ways, demonstrating their sheer strength and strength of emotion. By the curtain, Mower especially looked emotionally exhausted.

When we are greeted by Ball’s Swan gliding through the mist, what are most apparent are his beautiful, angular lines. When joined by the rest of the flock, dance melodies play across the stage as they establish the group and the Prince’s quite literal place in the pecking order. The stunning bird-like imagery is all-consuming. The spectacle is magical.

As always with Bourne’s work, every head, arm and eye line is sharp and deft. Shreds of comedy are splattered throughout the performance. As the Girlfriend, Katrina Lyndon is endearing and down to earth with a nod to the ‘Sheridan Smith school of comic acting’. She shone throughout the performance, especially during the dark ‘black swan’ moments when the struggles become more intense. It’s here where the character comes into its own, adding depth and always inviting a reaction from the audience.

But back to the Prince and that overpowering is the feeling of desolation he experiences. His desperation to be loved and accepted is the tragedy. At the ball, he dances with and teases every female in the room, including the Queen. It is hugely glamorous but only emphasises his sadness and the realisation of what he must endure if he is to feel accepted.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake presents a relationship between the Swan and the Prince that’s of epic proportions, much like Ball and Mowers performances. Yet in the next breath, we are transported back to the sheer joy of Bourne’s dance and his theatrical staging, doing what he does best: providing an alternative outlook on a classic tale.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake continues at Sadler’s Wells to January 27, 2019. Visit for details and booking.

Swan Lake then resumes its national tour, initially at the Milton Keynes Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome, Mayflower Southampton and Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, Visit for all dates and venues.