Swan Lake

Norwich Theatre Royal

It's a tricky one this. Since its world premiere in February, critics have almost to a man heartily disliked this version by the company's newish artistic director, Canadian David Nixon.

I can appreciate why. For me, it's disjointed as it attempts to marry parts of the original score and choreography with new material to produce something that doesn't immediately gel.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with stamping your own authority on something and indeed, in Norfolk, we love to “do different”. But this was just a touch too eclectic.

For a start, if something works – which Swan Lake does – why change it, and also, if you want to do your own thing, why not simply do something wholly original?


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Basically, the whole plot has been altered to centre on Anthony, magnificently played by Jonathan Olivier, who falls for both his best friend Simon (Christopher Hinton-Lewis) and the racy Odilia (Victoria Lane Green).

The love triangle causes obvious problems, with Anthony opting to do the conventional thing and marry Odilia, only to regret his decision quickly.

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Now, exactly where the swans and Odette, described in the programme notes as a swan-like woman, come in left me confused. But they certainly were pretty and performed fabulous set pieces in grand style.

But I preferred the newer choreography, especially the physical movements of Olivier and Hinton-Lewis, as they fought to understand and tame their emotions.

Yet there are definite high points in this production.

It is set in New England in 1912 and the costumes are fabulous – as is the actual staging. And there's a lot of serious dancing going on – the company must be exhausted after each performance.

The Leeds-based company recently lost its Halifax sponsorship, said to be about £500,000 a year, so obviously things have to change.

Ambitions are perhaps not as lofty as in the past and certainly the company is smaller, with many of the old names long gone.

Yet it remains one of the country's most forward-thinking dance groups and it is already working on a new version of Peter Pan that sounds great fun.

Expect to see the company back this autumn as Norwich is one of its favoured tour dates.

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