CULTURE

Bare-chested swans to grace Athenian stage

It might be men in tights, but it’s also a smash hit around the world. Matthew Bourne’s provocative, all-male «Swan Lake» has gone from London’s esteemed Sadler’s Wells Theater in London in 1995 to enjoy successful tours in the UK, the USA, Europe and Japan. «Swan Lake» has become the longest-running ballet in London’s West End and on Broadway. On January 31, the curtain on the avant-garde ballet will go up in Greece, at the capital’s new and improved Badminton Theater in Goudi for a run of shows until February 11. Based on the original classic by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and also using his score, this witty production has been designed to speak to a modern audience. «I could see an opportunity to create a human story, with the potential for great dramatic power and range, to indulge my satirical and humorous leanings as well as to create whole suites of abstract movement to some of the best dance music ever written. Irresistible!» says the director-choreographer on the production’s official website. As far as the all-male cast is concerned, Bourne states: «The idea of a male swan makes complete sense to me. The strength, the beauty, the enormous wingspan of these creatures suggests to me the musculature of a male dancer more readily than a ballerina in her white tutu.» Not for purists Though an Odette-Odile with a bare chest and an Adam’s apple may seem a bit of a stretch for ballet purists, the production has impressed critics the world over and gained its fair share of awards too. Among these are three Tony Awards for best director (Matthew Bourne’s is the first British director to receive this accolade), best choreographer and best musical. The production also won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award in 1997 as well as awards from the Society of West End Theaters’ Olivier Award and Time Out Dance in 1996, among others. The extravagant, imaginative stage design by Lez Brotherston has also been awarded. Judith Mackrell wrote in The Guardian in September 1996: «[T]his ‘Swan Lake’ is a blissfully comic, fiercely moving piece of theater that should convert even the grouchiest dance phobe into a fan.» And Lewis Segal, The Los Angeles Times’ dance critic, also wrote, «Showing us a boy’s nightmare of a swan in human form – and his mother’s unfeeling response – Bourne’s prologue emphasizes the feverish dread in the score and takes us deeply into the world of the key characters. «By the time they reappear in that same bedroom at the very end, those characters and that score have served an untamed Romantic vision that may be Bourne’s greatest gift to contemporary dance.» (April 28, 1997) The principal characters are performed alternately by: Thomas Whitehead and Alan Vincent (The Swan), Matthew Hart and Simon Williams (The Prince), and Saranne Curtin and Nina Goldman (The Queen). Tickets for performances are priced at 75 and 50 euros and are available from www.ticketnet.gr, or at Virgin Megastores.