London Coliseum, London, UK: April 11, 2014

Charlotte Kasner

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 'LAC'.  Photo © Alice Blangero

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in ‘LAC’.
Photo © Alice Blangero

Leonard Slatkin conducted the recording that accompanied this production. That is the end of the good news.

Countless producers have thought that they could modernise “Swan Lake”, and it is a pretty robust creature that can withstand a lot. However, it ain’t broke and doesn’t need fixing. Therefore, one must conclude that the desire to add one’s stamp to this seminal work is more one of ego and ennui. One hopes that Slatkin took the money and ran and at least he was spared the horror of watching this monster from the pit night after night.

This version is one of the most woeful that I have ever had the misfortune to experience. It is never a pleasure to endure recorded music, especially at a glorious theatre such as the Coliseum and it is a further insult to hear a score that has been chopped and changed so much that any idea of key progression is mangled, any concept of leitmotif destroyed and with the added insult that additional music has been penned in to no good effect whatsoever. Tempi, with no live dancers to follow, are reduced to overly fast and overly slow and jerk at the ear. The mood engendered is manic or dreary.

Costumes are utterly hideous and are lit so badly, as is the minimal, cheap-looking set, that Siegfried looks as if he is running round in Bacofoil and the corps look like a spilled bag of the nastiest Haribo sweets it is possible to imagine. The swans look as if they started out normal and then got shot through an industrial shredder somehow however, retaining raggy oven gloves on their hands that they flapped ineffectually. Trousers end at the knee and the black swan queen is kitted out in nasty black leggings that end at the top of her calf and a greenish-black, minimalist tutu that makes her look like a demented black bantam. There is a Benno-type character that ruts his way through the piece making obscene gestures for no obvious reason.

Black Swan, White Swan.  April Ball (black) and Anja Behrend (white) in 'LAC'. Photo © Laurent Philippe

Black Swan, White Swan.
April Ball (black) and Anja Behrend (white) in ‘LAC’.
Photo © Laurent Philippe

The production is doomed from the start as an overlong, amateurish film grinds on in the background. It looks like very low budget 1950’s sci-fi film with sets that would have embarrassed a B-Movie producer. Two nauseating children play at dressing up and happy ever after while the black bantam queen flaps in and out. The obvious psycho-drama is too boring to be worth concentrating on.

When the dance finally starts, it is a relentless romp that describes a move on every beat and that is much given to bizarre arm gestures that look as if a team of parents is trying to gee-up reluctant offspring on a Sunday league football pitch. It is utterly misogynistic: women are reduced to saint or sirens and are thrown around the stage like so many chunks of meat. There is no room for subtlety or character definition as the dancers charge relentlessly from one scene to another. When the prince finally gets his pas de deux with the white swan, it drags on and on to no good effect with nothing of choreographic interest either. By the third act, it almost spills over into parody and there were one or two titters from the shuffling, bored audience.

There are moments where it is possible to glimpse good technique – turns are sharp and well-timed and the odd arabesque shows a lovely line. One pities the dancers having to present this drivel, although to their credit, they do so with commendable energy for a very long couple of hours.

One to avoid at all costs.