Swan Lake Reloaded

Rating ****
Reviewed by Tony Peters

People have toyed around with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake before, from tweaks to the original ending — mostly notably the triumph of evil over good in the 1986 Rudolph Nureyev version for the Paris Ballet — to Matthew Bourne’s now legendary all-male version, which premiered in 1995.

And now Swedish choreographer Fredrik Rydman offers his spectacular, and often spectacularly bonkers, version, which kicks the work right into the 21st century with street moves and contemporary dance set to a mash-up soundtrack of electro and Tchaikovsky’s original score.

From the moment of the evil Rothbart’s entrance, played with reptilian menace by a superb Daniel Anderssom, Rydman’s Swan Lake is a kaleidoscopic explosion of breathtaking dance, dramatic lighting and stunning design that assaults the senses for the unbroken 90 minute running time.

Rydman apparently got the idea for his adaptation while browsing the window of a fetish shop in London’ Camden Town where the tasseled black leather skirts reminded him of swans. And this Swan Lake certainly takes as its centre the dark underbelly of inner city life. Rather than the sorcery and magic of the original story, what we have here are swan brides as prostitutes exploited though their dependency on drugs by the pimp Rothbart.

That said, the narrative largely follows familiar lines with the Siegfried (Robert Malmborg) falling in love with Odette (Maria Andersom), who is one of those under Rothbert’s control. But Siegfried is tricked by the pimp into marrying his daughter Odile (Ambra Succi), with the usual tragic results.

Amid all this intensity, Rydman manages some moments of humour involving a rubber dildo and the famous dance of the four swans being performed by the girls lying on their backs. But a brief breaking of the fourth wall when a hapless audience member was dragged up for a bit of business was just embarrassing, upset the mood, and didn’t work at all.

But it’s a minor quibble. This is mostly a superb production; full of invention and striking imagery that adds a new dimension to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent music.

Conceived and choreographed by Fredrik Rydman

Odette: ​Maria Anderssom
Rothbart: ​​Daniel Koivunen
Siegfried: ​Robert Malmborg
Odile: ​Ambra Succi
The Mother​: Jennie Widegren
The Jester/Father​: Fredrik “Kaos” Wentzel
Swan Brides: ​Lisa Arnold
​Anna Näsström
Siegfried’s friends​Alexandro Duchén
​Mario Perez Amigo