People often ask, why is Swan Lake so popular? The answer is simple, it’s the best. And it doesn’t get much better than the stunning production by Birmingham Royal Ballet currently touring the UK with a stopover last week in Islington. BRB has never looked better. British ballet guru, Peter Wright, created this version for the company based on the original Marius Petipa choreography, an astounding 33 years ago and so bright, sharp and deeply moving was last Wednesday’s matinee performance, it really seemed like yesterday. The role of the loving Swan Princess, Odette, and her evil doppelganger, Odile, was danced with perfect good taste by Delia Matthews, supported by Brandon Lawrence’s impeccably well-mannered Prince Siegfried. He even escorted her onto the stage for her solo bits and pieces before melting into the background. This was a gracious social courtesy rarely seen in Britain today and a humble detail that helps mark this Swan Lake as superior. Matthews is exceptionally musical, not only in her eerie precision as far as simply keeping time is concerned but she and Tchaikovsky blend into one. Some of the most passionate and despairing music ever written is turned into flesh and blood before our eyes.
But the performance could not aim so precisely at our hearts were it not for the rehearsal values employed by company director David Bintley and assistant director Marion Tait. Everything superfluous is cleaned away. The dancers are perfectly spaced on the available stage area, each one clearly visible and every step they perform beautifully executed. What a staggeringly powerful impact on the audience a little discipline makes when applied to a stage full of artists. Standing out from the crowd was Max Maslen as Benno, the Prince’s Friend. Just promoted from the corps de ballet, Maslem has an easy grace and a wide reaching technique; one to watch. But the show belongs to Matthews. How rare it is to see a dancer finding a role through instinct. She needed no “look at me” display, just the steps, the music and her own depth of feeling. BRB is touring until January 2016; don’t miss them.
Enquiries about the Critics' Circle should be made to the Hon Gen Sec Rick Jones by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 8698 2460.