Tag Archives: Dominic North

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It isn’t hyperbole to say that Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake changed the face of classical dance forever. Retaining Tchaikovsky’s original score, the rest of the ballet is turned completely on its head. For all its fantasy, in Bourne’s hands the story takes on a much more ‘human’ form. Instead of the Odette/Odile/Siegfried triangle it is now the tale of a melancholic, maternally rejected prince whose emotional demise we track through the course of this exquisitely conceived and delivered production. It is a dark and at times sinister tale of repression and sexual fantasy, punctuated throughout with clever humour. It is also, of course, that show with the gender swapped swans: instead of the prettily prancing pens, it’s a herd of predatory and powerful cobs sizzling with electricity and a large dose of menace. In ridding the story of its expected gender roles it has much more power.

Literally seen by millions around the world, it returns in 2019 with a fresh new (though not radically changed) look for the 21st Century at the hands of original designer Lez Brotherston, with a new lighting design from Paule Constable and with a few of the more tired background characters refreshed. This is a show that even without the changes can withstand multiple re-visits.

The stage bristles with life from curtain up and with intriguing choreographic ideas and mesmerising sequences of movement throughout, it is impossible not to be captivated. Dominic North’s Prince is beautifully danced and emotionally poignant and Max Westwell has a formidable presence, ensuring a searing and memorable performance as the Swan/Stranger.

Tchaikovsky’s 1875/6 score is re-ordered here and is sufficiently varied that a modern interpretation of the story can hang on it perfectly. It is fundamentally beautiful whichever order it is played in, and in whatever era its ballet is set.

Ballet snobs will hate it, but you would need to be emotionally and artistically devoid to fail to appreciate the visual spectacle and the sheer originality of storytelling and staging. Nearly a quarter of a century on it remains as utterly perfect as it ever was. Unmissable.

Runs until 9 March 2019 | Image: Contributed

This post was originally written for the Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Red Shoes – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Taking Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948, Technicolor masterpiece of British cinema, The Red Shoes and turning it into a fully-fledged ballet, sounds like madness, but, in the hands of dance superstar Matthew Bourne, it’s an unmitigated triumph.

Along with young composer Julian Craster (Dominic North), aspiring dance star Vicky Page’s (Ashley Shaw) quiet determination takes her from the chorus line to centre stage when she impresses the Diaghilev-like ballet impresario Boris Lermontov. However, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for when she has to choose between love and her obsession for dance.

As ever in New Adventures work, this cinematic production is replete with tiny detail and humour (the cigarettes dangling from the dancers’ mouths and the principal dancers miming their way through rehearsals are particularly funny). Lez Brotherston’s clever set design, enhanced by Paule Constable’s atmospheric lighting, takes the action seamlessly from the elegant salons of London, to front/back stage of the ballet, the streets of Monte Carlo to a run-down East End music hall. The moving proscenium arch design is particularly clever and sweeps the action along at a break-neck speed.

Terry Davies’ orchestrations of the legendary work of Bernard Herrman (taken from The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Citizen Kane) are faultless and lend the piece the suspense it requires. There’s also clever work from Paul Groothuis, whose sound design amps up the atmosphere in the auditorium.

The dancers are universally outstanding, as ever, and the choreography detailed and utterly absorbing. There’s little more you can say save that this is an outstanding piece of dance theatre – more please.

Images by Johan Persson/Tristram Kenton

 

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Considered by many the most audience conscious of artists, credit must undoubtedly go to Matthew Bourne for his groundbreaking work, his originality of vision, and for the popularization of ballet among the masses. Indeed, the packed house at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal is a testament to that.

For this production Sleeping Beauty, Bourne returns to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete his trio of the composer’s ballet masterworks that started in 1992 with Nutcracker! and, most famously, in 1995, with the international hit Swan Lake.

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Charles Perrault’s timeless fairy tale, about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years, was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the Christening of Aurora, the story’s heroine, in the year of the ballet’s first performance; the height of the Fin-de-Siècle period when fairies, vampires and decadence fed the gothic imagination. Here, the traditional tale of good versus evil is turned on its head to create a supernaturally tinged, time-travelling love story.

The tone is set even before the curtain rises: the vine-covered title superimposed on the curtain, takes us instantly to the pages of a Grimm fairy tale. The music starts and the legend Once upon a time… appears to chuckles of recognition from the audience. We are then taken on a mesmerising journey in this Gothic re-telling of the familiar tale.

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Visually stunning, even more so than Bourne’s previous works, this is ballet as you want it to be – the sets and costumes in themselves evoking an emotional response from the audience, the beautiful, familiar music of Tchaikovsky, the perfect fairy-tale score. The choreography too is innovative, unlike traditional ballet companies, Bourne never feels constrained to stick to one particular style. Instead, each scene is imbued with a unique character and appropriate movement vocabulary. And to Bourne’s credit there is never an indulgent moment, every step sharply drives the plot.

This is a picture book perfect re-telling of the tale – full of visual delights and gasp-inducing moments and each member of this company is as talented and captivating as the other. New Adventures are the best of the best, and this is a production not to be missed. Sheer theatrical perfection. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Runs until 21 November 2015 | Images: Simon Annand/Johan Persson

*This review was originally written for the Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/sleeping-beauty-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Edward Scissorhands – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by www.thepublicreviews.com

Matthew Bourne’s contemporary ballet of Tim Burton’s much-loved movie Edward Scissorhands has been re-set to the 1950’s in this breathtaking version.

Edward2014JP-08061- Dominic North as EdwardThe storyline follows many of the main plot themes of the 1990 film but it is by no means slavish to the original source material. Bourne has, for example, extended the prologue giving us more depth to the back-story of Edward. The work opens on a superbly atmospheric and arresting vision of Frankenstein-like gothic horror where Edward is created, but it goes on to tell the same tale of the eccentric inventor whose son has been fatally electrocuted during a lightning storm and who creates a replacement; a boy with scissors for hands. When Edward is left alone after his father is killed by local thugs, he ventures into town where he has to fight small-town prejudice and find his place in a superficial world.

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This modern fairy tale speaks powerfully of how we treat those who are different to ourselves and how quickly tolerance and acceptance dry up and old prejudices return to the surface at the first hint of trouble. Indeed it shines a timely light on our current treatment of those from outside who choose to make this country their own.

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In a superb central performance, Dominic North magnificently registers Edward’s heartbreaking vulnerability as well as maintaining a commanding and charismatic presence throughout. There are performances of the highest order everywhere you look too, indeed the whole production is awash with exquisite tiny detail that absolutely delights: the dancing topiary, the ice-sculpting and Edward’s astounding hairdressing skills to name a few.

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The movement sequences, set to an absolutely stunning score by Terry Davies and Danny Elfman are comparatively short and keep interest levels high throughout and there’s a pleasing mix of original and inventive styles.

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Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous set design has been heavily influenced by classic 50’s-set movies; Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married spring to mind, making this a visually entrancing, finely-detailed delight.

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The sell-out crowd were on their feet as one at the end, sniffling back tears and whooping and hollering their appreciation, there’s absolutely no doubt Matthew Bourne and his company know how to give an audience exactly what it wants.

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The word magical is liberally bandied around these days, but this beautifully executed, beguiling and touching tale deserves to be labelled so. Vivid, vibrant and utterly spellbinding to the last, this hard to fault production is yet another unalloyed triumph for New Adventures.

5 STARS * * * * *

Photographs by Johan Persson

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies -Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Regular readers of this blog will know that my love for the work of Matthew Bourne and his company New Adventures knows no bounds. But at first glance William Golding’s dystopian masterpiece Lord of the Flies doesn’t seem like material ripe for adaptation as a dance work. It is testament to the vision of New Adventures and Re:Bourne that Golding’s powerful and affecting work loses none of its ability to shock and awe.

Now back on the stage where the whole new adventure began, this emotive adaptation does full justice to Golding’s narrative: raw, visceral and genuinely moving, it is a theatrical tour de force, brilliantly accompanied by Lez Brotherston’s inventive set and Paul Groothuis eardrum pounding, primitive sound design.

The action is transferred from deserted island to deserted theatre. A group of schoolboys find themselves abandoned: with no adults around they start to make their own rules and create their own civilisation, before order breaks down with tragic consequences.

Bourne’s professional company are joined seamlessly by young talent from the Greater Glasgow area and the combination brings these legendary characters to life in electrifying fashion. Intense, ferocious and utterly spell-binding it will take you on a journey which will leave you emotionally wrung out by the end.

A Five Star Gem.