Saturday, April 22, 2006

swan lake gone wrong

due to kim working at broadway in boston, i was able to see matthew bourne's swan lake for free last night. we had more than decent seats in the small theater (which i commented later was smaller than the auditorium in my high school) and i was prepared to see my first broadway performance since a trip to nyc during undergrad. i haven't seen the original swan lake production--the classic ballet version. i didn't know the story at all, but i'm sure what i saw last night was not it. i believe the original is popular for children (like the nutcracker) but i would not bring children to this 'revival!' i can see the director was trying to update the story for modern audiences, but i didn't know it was contemporary until one of the characters had their cell phone ring. the costuming never portrayed a modern setting--it was a bizarre mix of 50s, 60s, and 70s clothing that pranced around on stage. odd.

well, that's not really the heart of my review. the dancing was really quite good. the swan troupe could have done better to be synchronized when needed, but the principal dancer was amazing. i was completely in awe that a male body, not intended for so much grace, could move and bend with such lightness. unfortunately, about 120 minutes of the 140 minute running time was dripping with all sorts of sexuality: hetero-, homo-, bi-, trans-. it was all there, glorified. as if the entire story revolved around sex.

the way i saw it (there were no speaking parts like a traditional ballet), the prince (who i assume to be in his 20s) desired to be loved by his queen mother and was not. he had a nightmare about swans one night and his mother refused to comfort him (a weird scene of oedipal-type wrestling around with the prince trying to hug his mother). the prince dates a socially inappropriate girl he likes but the queen doesn't. the girl gets paid off to leave the prince alone by the queen's secretary. the prince gets drunk and experiences a swan fantasy in a park--afraid of the swans and eventually loves them. (this scene lasted WAY too long and was more than a little homoerotic. there were several points where i was literally biting my lip to keep from laughing.) intermission. (i almost left, but my curiosity won out. it starts again.) everyone important in the kingdom goes to a ball at the palace. lots of very sexual dancing. a 'stranger' shows up (who is the same guy as the principal swan) and tries to lure everyone's woman away. he comes on to the queen and is successful. the prince freaks out and pulls a gun. the girl the prince dated before tries to stop him. the queen's secretary also pulls a gun. the girl gets shot and dies. the prince somehow ends up in a mental hospital. (i question if the entire show is the fantasy of a mental patient). he is given some drugs and ends up in his (the prince's) bedroom again. the swans come out from under the bed. the prince dances with them. the principal swan comes out through a hole in the bed (very cool and also kinda gross at the same time). he has cuts on him--weird. the other swans try to attack him and they are fought off eventually. a weird love dance with the swan and prince. (i am worrying that this is going to end up IN the bed.) the other swans come back and attack the swan again, eventually making him disappear (we were getting pretty close to some Christ-imagery here that was bothersome). the prince looks for him and passes out on the bed. resolve to morning. the queen comes in to greet the prince and finds him dead on the bed. then you can see above the bed, backlit behind a scrim, the swan holding the limp body of the prince. end of show.

ok. just bizarre, full of agenda, and bleak. i saw some good dancing, but i didn't learn anything new. the show said to me: 'if the primary people who are supposed to love you don't do so in a way you need, go out and find someone else (anyone else) who will. it's especially good if they sacrifice a lot to love you.' but then there was nothing. lots of big, dramatic 'loving' and dying, but that's all. so very self-focused. the one character that cared about others even a little bit (the rejected girlfriend) was murdered and never mentioned again. hmmm... yet another illustration of the realization of the world i live in. i'll chalk the experience up to keeping my eyes open and out of my own little world.

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