Matthew Bourne's triumphant return

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When Adventures in Motion Pictures' corps of 18 male swans first spread their wings in the autumn of 1995 the media wilfully dubbed it "the gay Swan Lake". Yet the show's reappearance in the West End this week ruffled no feathers among traditionalists. Following its sell-out first season and tour, word has got out. Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake isn't a parody or a subversion: it's an hommage. And far from making light of Tchaikovsky's score, it plumbs depths uncharted by Petipa's original. What's more, Bourne's meticulous attention to dramatic nuance allows him to give his love-story-cum-thriller all the psychological complexity a modern audience craves but rarely gets from narrative ballet.

The production has lost none of its edge. If anything, the wit is sharper and the dancing more focused, especially in the "White Acts" where the swans' sleek, sly, avian body language seems to have worked its way under the dancers' feathery skins. Scott Ambler's tormented Prince is a tragic hero for our age, Fiona Chadwick's decadent Queen a caution, and Adam Cooper's Swan ... well to judge by the way he danced on Wednesday he's scarcely less than a god.

The last time a ballet made a go of the West End was in 1921 - Diaghilev's Sleeping Princess. The comparison is not invidious. See Bourne's Swan Lake now, or live to regret it. (Piccadilly, W1, 0171 369 1734.)