Five things you didn’t know about Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake.’

Swan Lake‘ comes to The Lowry Tue 20 November – Sat 1 December. Here, Matthew Bourne tells us five things we didn’t know about the ballet before.

It was based on the Royal family

While the male swans were the big idea, the secondary big idea was modern Royal scandal. Matthew Bourne said, “This was in the news all the time whilst we were making the piece, with Diana & Charles, and Sarah Ferguson, and Camilla Parker-Bowles, and Princess Margaret.

“All of these stories were daily news during the making of the show. And so, it was very topical thing to have a Prince who couldn’t be the person he really was, or to be with the person he wanted to be with – all very relevant to contemporary Britain and contemporary Royalty. So, we’re still telling the same story – it’s still about a Royal family, but a modern Royal family.”

It was inspired by Alfred Hitcock

Hitchcock’s film from 1963 ‘The Birds,’ was inspiration for the ballet. There’s a bit where the main character is suddenly surrounded by birds all waiting to fly at her. Matthew said; “We do this with the Swans on the bed and that’s a direct quote from The Birds. It’s the only story really where birds take over and attack the humans. It’s an extraordinary story that’s never explained and I think that’s rather good too; the fact that it just happens!”

When it first opened, audience reactions were mixed.

This version of Swan Lake was different to everything that came before it. Matthew told us, “When we first started to do it, we had audiences walking out when the Prince and the Swan started dancing together. We had little girls in tears that it wasn’t performed with the tutus and pointe shoes, and things like that, that they were expecting.

“We also had a slightly aggressive attitude towards it from some members of the audience; and some people refused to come and see it at all. It got dubbed ‘the gay Swan Lake’, which was not what the aim was, but it certainly was a story within it that was very meaningful for gay audiences, and I celebrate that. I did then, and I do now. It is a bit more wide-ranging than that too however, and it can really be interpreted in many ways.”

It’s been updated and there are sneaky new bits never seen before.

While Matthew is keeping his lips sealed on many changes – saying that “For many people seeing the new version of Swan Lake they probably won’t recognise many of the changes we’ve made, and I think they will feel they are still seeing the same piece.”

We know that there have been lots of subtle changes made throughout the show to keep it up to date for a modern audience. He did let us in on a little secret that Paule Constable is the new lighting designer for the show. “Paule has never seen our Swan Lake before – not on film or on stage – so we’ll get a completely fresh approach from Paule and I don’t know what it will look like yet. It’s definitely going to look different, as Paule’s a different kind of designer, so that will be a big change.”

First staged in 1995, Swan Lake is 23 years old.

Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’ became the longest running ballet on the West End and Broadway and inspired a generation of dancers. Matthew said “We know, even from discussions with the cast we have at the moment, how inspiring this piece can be for young people who see the piece and then want to go on to a career in theatre, or particularly dance.

“Many of the men in the show, and in fact the women too, first came to dance through this piece having been taken to see it by their parents, or perhaps by their dance school, and now they’re in it themselves. It still seems to move and inspire people and therefore we get excited about doing it because that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to entertain.”

Swan Lake’ is brought to The Lowry by Matthew Bourne and New Adventures. The show will run at the Salford venue Tue 20 November – Sat 1 December. For more information and tickets visit the website or call box office on 0843 208 6000.