The swan remains the same

English National Ballet | The Mayflower, Southampton
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Having adapted Swan Lake into a circular version for English National Ballet's arena performances, Derek Deane has theoretically re-adapted it for showing on a conventional square stage, such as the Mayflower Theatre's, where the tour has started. Poor Swan Lake: chopped, patched, deconstructed, reconstructed for over a century. When will it all end?

Having adapted Swan Lake into a circular version for English National Ballet's arena performances, Derek Deane has theoretically re-adapted it for showing on a conventional square stage, such as the Mayflower Theatre's, where the tour has started. Poor Swan Lake: chopped, patched, deconstructed, reconstructed for over a century. When will it all end?

Actually, this production reveals little connection with the arena Swan Lake. Not only have the 60 swans contracted to 16, now facing front instead of all directions, but much of the choreography seems changed. So do many of the costumes, even though the original idea was to recycle the previous batch as a money-saving tactic.Peter Farmer's Gothic velvets and silks are blessedly surprise-free and luxurious, as is his new décor. The royal merry-making in Act One takes place in a leafy courtyard; the lakeside is a traditional lakeside; the Act Three ball takes us into a throne room, where light glows through cloistered arches. Only the lovers' final apotheosis strikes a jarring note, using what looks like a steam-powered bed to achieve their celestial elevation, a white jet-trail puffing behind.

The result is a refreshingly straightforward Swan Lake. True, Deane has, like others before him, introduced a prologue showing the sorcerer Rothbart turning Odette into a swan. And you can argue the merits of his choreography, although it struck me as perfectly pleasant. He has also kept Ashton's charming Neapolitan dance, so fast you almost have a heart attack just watching, and introduced the same choreographer's pas de quatre in place of the usual trio that entertains the prince in Act One.

Unfortunately, the performers let the side down. The orchestra under Gavin Sutherland sounds too strained to swell the air with beauty. Nor does the partnership of Patrick Armand and Monica Perego cause sparks. Perego's uninflected dancing finds little depth in Odette's lyricism, while her Odile lacks the sureness necessary for her to glitter. Armand is passionate and princely in a neat kind of way. His Act Three grande pirouette spools round sensationally, but the other tricks are not liable to make you drop your ice cream in awe. Nathan Coppen and Shi-Ning Liu in the Ashton quartet need to agree on a standard way of executing the male choreography, but ensembles elsewhere have unity and verve.

Deane has done a lot to lick general ENB standards into shape. But with company finances getting ever tighter, he has had enough after eight years. This Swan Lake is his swan-song, although he will probably keep some contact with the company and may even see his projected Wuthering Heights materialise eventually.

Touring to 25 Nov; London performances 9 to 20 January

Comments