Out and About

Theatre Royal Plymouth

On Friday, despite the threat of impending wind and rain based doom over the South West of England,  HOH and I ventured out to the ballet. We went to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, partly because we wanted to and partly because I didn’t want to be the last person in the western world to go.
I have seen a bit of Bourne, I took FOW2 to The Nutcracker (which she could have taken or left to be honest.) HOH and I also went to see his version of Joseph Losey’s The Servant – Play Without Words, which was fan yourself hot actually and I’m glad I didn’t go with my nana.
Anyway, this Swan Lake was a sort of cross between a Grimm fairy tale, an astonishing feat of beautiful dance and er .. A Bronski Beat video. As you probably know, the “Big Thing” about Bourne’s Swan Lake is that the swans are played by blokes rather than girlies. This has obvious repercussions when the Queen’s son falls in love with the lead swan. I trust you are following my meaning here. 
My first mistake was not checking out the story before I went. I am too mean to pay £3.50 for a programme advertising lots of shops in Plymouth that I already know about so I went in completely ignorant. By the time I reached the interval – so many questions.
Who is he?
Is that his mother?
Why is he chasing the swans?
Is in love with a swan? Is that allowed?
Does he want a swan as a pet?
Wouldn’t the Queen have something to say about that? Doesn’t she own all the swans in England or something? 
When does Natalie Portman come on?

We had also managed to find ourselves sat next to a group of understudies on one side of us – all taut limbs, straight backs and spontaneous applause every five minutes – and a very charming old man on the other side who was struggling manfully with a cough and had to keep putting sucky sweets in his mouth. I tell you, the whole event could have been fraught with tension.

I have to report though that it was quite wonderful. Such amazing physicality, and beauty and humour and wonderful music which they managed to keep the spirit of despite moving so far away from what I suppose is the “Classic” version of the story. The scene in a club called “Swanks” where people managed to to do sixties dancing to a Tchaikovsky score was inspired and the startling finale make you leave the theatre feeling that you had been in the presence of something special. 

I came home and read the story and it all made a bit more sense – as much as any story about people being turned into swans ever makes sense – and although I did realise that the was also an agenda at play – I couldn’t be bothered with that. I stood up at the end and clapped. All the theatre and me and the annoyingly lovely understudies. They were all very tall. I’ve seen Billy Elliot. I thought you couldn’t dance the ballet if you were too tall. Another mystery that my lack of culture means I will never be able to solve. 


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