How Matthew Bourne adapts Swan Lake into modernity



What an eye opener!

I took my lovely Mum to the ballet last night to see Swan Lake on their opening night at Hull New Theatre. I expected delicate swans, I expected romance, I expected tutu’s and I couldn’t have been more wrong…


The ‘New Adventures’ production company brought this classic into modernity. And after reading that their productions are famous for “telling stories with a unique theatrical twist”, I realised that the traditional view of Swan Lake was never going to be on the cards. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was to tell a different story; to use his own words…a story more “powerful, wild and dangerous”.

Related: What’s on at Hull New Theatre

I had no idea that the swans would all be male and that the roles were intended to be reversed. This idea came after Matthew Bourne contemplated that perhaps there would be a hidden reason for the Prince’s reluctance to marry.

The swans (male dancers) were phenomenal! The way they combined ultimate strength with grace in their performance was nothing short of magical and awe inspiring. The choreographer really captured the swans elegance and beauty, but also their feisty and fearlessly protective nature.

The scene was set in the young Prince’s bedroom. He was haunted by a dream and as the first scene unfolded you could see the strain on his relationship with the Queen (performed by Nicole Kabera). It was very clear that the Prince was unhappy, confused and uncomfortable in his life in every way, which later portrayed the struggle he faced with his sexuality. This struggle within the Prince’s sexuality conveyed intense emotion and tragedy, breaking itself away from a more ‘traditional’ Swan Lake and moving the production into modernity.

The struggle in the Prince was portrayed so well by Liam Mower and the choreographer. I could really feel the turmoil within him and the absolute isolation he must’ve felt growing up. The relationship between the Prince and the Stranger/the Swan (played by Max Westwell) was fascinating to see. The swan/the stranger was a dominant figure who lured the Prince in. He was dark, charming and captivating. There was a clear struggle between them, both wrestling with their passions and being drawn to each other for refuge almost.

I could see that the New Adventures company had adopted a different view of ballet, incorporating a theatrical performance and this came together brilliantly with both elements complimenting each other.

Because of this there were quite a few laughs along the way with witty humour and even without the use of words, they did this effortlessly. They all possess an incredible standard of talent. It was definitely something I didn’t really expect to get while watching a ballet.

Overall the performance was outstanding. The dancing was breathtaking. The humour, the acting, the expressive choreography all worked exceptionally well together. It’s an adaptation I did not expect to see but I was gripped from beginning to end. However it wouldn’t be something I would take a very young child to see because of the intense emotions and tragic ending.

If you enjoy ballet, theatre productions, comedy, and a deeply expressive poignant story line… you’ll love this production which is showing at Hull New Theatre until this Saturday (27th April). Tickets are available from just £17.50 at Those of you who have already got your tickets, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it!