When Matthew Bourne first presented his new version of Swan Lake in 1995 he could never have envisaged the elevated position it was to achieve in the world’s dance canon. Now, 19 years later and he’s touring it around the UK again to packed audiences.
Prior to the show’s run at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 29 April – 3 May 2014, Dancing Review spoke to Chris Trenfield from Bourne’s New Adventures company about what it takes to play the key role of The Swan in this benchmark ballet.
How much fun is it to dance with New Adventures?
Oh, it’s brilliant, a bit of a dream really. It’s a real giving company and it feels great to be part of it.
You’re playing The Swan and The Stranger in the current run. What different traits are you trying to express through these two characters?
The Swan is a character that portrays both freedom and strength which are things the Prince really desires and wants to be able to express himself. The dark swan, The Stranger, is a sort of human representation of what the Prince wants to become. It’s strange actually because the Stranger is quite different to my real-life personality so it’s fun to play that sort of bravado character.
What’s the most challenging aspect about doing this?
Physically it’s probably the most demanding show I’ve ever done. One of the hardest things is trying to make it look effortless. I used to play football and rugby but there, when you’re tired you’re allowed to have a breather and look like you’ve worked hard, but this has to look effortless. On top of that you’re trying to tell a story at the same time! The company is mainly concerned about the storytelling in the show rather than making the pretty shapes and focussing on the dance sequences; that’s something you’ve got to keep in the back of your mind at all times.
Are there any major changes for this new run?
The story and the movement have stayed pretty much the same but Matthew always comes into the rehearsal process at the start of each run and says how he wants to portray it. This time I think there’s a lot more emphasis on realism and truth, whereas before it was often the comedy aspect of the show that was pushed.
Why do you think this version of Swan Lake has proved so enduring over the years?
I think it still draws people because it was so ground-breaking and controversial when it first came out – it’s got a bit of a following now and is very much recognised world-wide. It has its own place against the Classical versions; when people talk about Swan Lake they don’t just think of women in tutus anymore. It’s one of those shows that really does change the way people look at life.
Swan Lake runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 29 April – 3 May 2014 and tickets are available from the theatre’s website.