The elegance of his production was found mostly in the transformation of his cast. After the show I waited outside the stage door and met all the young men who played the swans, and found trouble recognising them without their black face paint. Though they all had shaved heads. Each of them donned an Urban Outfitters shearling jacket, or a pair of edgy hoop earrings. None of them carried with them the power they did on stage; they smiled at me and signed their programme profiles with boyish charm. Bourne transformed them into menacing creatures with his bold choreography, and marked a turning point in ballet and contemporary dance.
The production was riveting, and intense. Story was told through modern costumes and exaggerated gestures, in a modern day club, and with the fussing of an overly attentive mother who forgot to love. We felt the Prince’s plight whilst also sympathising with the iciness of he mother. Though perhaps not enough to sympathise when she fails to hold her son’s hand when he’s ill in bed.
Though the production was consistent in the reaching of climaxes and reversals in scenes, some were overly flabby for time. The scene where the Prince meets the Swan was one such instant. The scene went on a bit too long, and the swans who riled around their leader had a bit too much stage time for me. Though perhaps I am being impatient, for although the scene went on for too long Bourne made it obvious the Prince’s meeting with this swan was not ordinary. He had to work for it. A quick and amicable meeting would not have packed the same level of satisfaction as when after five minutes of to-ing and fro-ing between the Prince and the Human, the lead Swan finally held him up.
The Lead Swan visits the Swan just before the curtain break, in human form, and seduces his mother. Ignoring the Prince, he focuses only on the women, driving him to madness and ultimately a gun. A shot is fired at the Swan by the Prince, and instead he hits one of the women in attendance. The Swan then turns a gun on him.
Not shooting, but instead relinquishing, the Swan is forgotten but the guests put the Prince in a mental ward where he waits out the rest of the story. He gets no love from his mother, and is only visited by the Lead Swan, who is attacked by the rest of the swans for doing so.
Here we have an interesting contrast between the betrayal by the lead swan of the Prince, and then the betrayal of the Lead Swans by the other swans, and vice versa. Even the mother betrays the Prince on some level. she doesn’t show him enough love, and ends up losing him to the lead swan at the end: They both die.
A play about treachery then, and betrayal by those you held close. By relinquishing control to the animal within you. The one that is pride, elegance, brutality: The Swan. Was Bourne highlighting the brutality of desertion and betrayal with the casting of the swans as men? Probably not, but a theme that is brought out and held up to the question by virtue of it. The triumph of both the Swan and The prince in death highlighted the betrayal they both suffered whilst alive. it almost seemed fitting that a mother should have to find her son dead as revenge.
Afterwards, I waited by the stage door with a lovely older lady. This lady had been doing ballet when she was younger and thus spent all her pensions going to the ballet and the theatre. She boasted all the cast’s signatures in her programme and was specifically waiting for Liam’s- a dancer who hadn’t been performing that night but who she assured me was in the production. In fact she said, he was the original Billy Elliot in the original cast performance.
She also informed me, after greeting many of the dancers by their first names, that most of the dancers switched roles every night to save on boredom. “You were a sexy minx tonight” she cackled at one of the female dancers who had danced sexily in black sequins as the Lead Swan seduced the lot. She told me this dancer had played the old queen for the matinee.
Not only did these dancers know their own steps then, they knew everyone else’s. Talk about working hard.
All the dancers were lovely and gorgeous to look at. Most of them were humble too and were shocked that I even wanted their autograph. For many it was their first time dancing in a production. After meeting ten or so of the male swan dancers, all of whom had their heads shaved, I felt one of the gang, a non-dancer but fully fledged member of the crew. A guy came out next who had hair though, so I thought PAH an extra.
‘Why do you get to keep your hair?’
“Well as a prince I get out of that one.”
Any chance of looking suave was gone. I was just a fan girl with an old lady who was running rings around her when it came to socialising with the gorgeous swans. He was the lead, of course. In my favour I was high up in the circle so I could pass it off as not recognising him. On the contrary though he as the only one without hair. And gorgeous. And probably the only straight guy I’d met. I didn’t deserve his number.
They were all normal seeming boys; one of them commented that he liked my jacket, and in fact I can see the appeal of doing what this lady had been doing…
She said she had already been to about three performances of this production already and was standing outside after each to get their autographs. She had even gotten Matthew Bourne’s that afternoon. Dedication.
I almost enjoyed our conversation about her life as much as I did meeting the stream of handsome dancers that were pouring past us. (And of course the production itself) After an hour we parted ways, each of us laden with autographs. She said she’s see me at the production of Romeo and Juliet in the summer. I asked what date was she going? And she said Thursday.
‘The one in June’
It’ll be up to Miss Serendipity.