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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Minus one star for poor presentation., 7 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Matthew Bourne Box Set [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Anyone buying this set will probably do so with some foreknowledge of Matthew Bourne's productions. His Swan Lake is an ingenious and very freudian updating, with distinct homo-erotic overtones, of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet in which a handsome prince falls in love with a beautiful young woman who has been transformed by magical arts into a swan. In the Bourne version the prince is a neurotic and unhappy young fellow who has a difficult relationship with his indifferent and flighty mother, the swan figure that invades his fantasies has a nice pair of pecs and a six-pack, and the usual corp-de-ballet of young girls in tutus is replaced by some fit young guys in swan costumes. It's clever, even witty at times, but ultimately tragic and quite moving. The Nutcracker is rather further removed from the Tchaikovsky original in which a young girl is given a nutcracker doll for Christmas which morphs into a handsome youth who then whisks her off to a fantastic fairyland. In the Bourne version the tale concerns a group of downtrodden inmates of a repressive early 20th century orphanage who eventually find love and freedom although before this happens they too visit a fantastic world of sweets and knickerbocker glories. Carman, a sweatier and steamier affair altogether, is set to the music of Bizet's Carmen, and has noirish elements of movies like The Postman Always Rings Twice with a handsome and mysterious stranger drifting into town and stirring up the hormones of both sexes with fatal consequences. The quality of Bourne's creative imagination and the vigour of the dancing have a tendency to obscure the sometimes mundane choreography, but whether you're interested in classical ballet or modern dance, or neither in particular, I'm pretty sure you'll find this an enjoyable trio. It should be clear, however, from the foregoing that this is not the most appropriate ballet fare for grans to watch with their 8 year old granddaughters.

Presentation-wise, this looks quite a handsome set but in fact it's a lazy and indifferent production with no extras (apart from a brief interview with Bourne) and wretchedly thin background notes.There aren't even proper synopses of the plots with the result that there were occasional moments in the Nutcracker where I couldn't understand what was going on. And whilst two of the discs have artwork one of them does not. So 5 stars for the ballets, 3 for presentation, 4 stars overall. Highly recommended all the same.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Mar 2010 01:28:25 GMT
Maeve Fields says:
WRONG!!! ln the normal sense of the word, in fact the princess isn't, it's a prince, dear and if you knew your ballet, you'd probably know that!

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Mar 2010 18:56:05 GMT
Dear Maeve, your comment has more force than clarity. I think you're objecting to my potted synopsis of the original Swan Lake where my brevity was perhaps misleading, so I've tweaked it a bit so as not to offend avid balletomanes like you dear.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2010 15:28:30 BDT
Well I like ballet but having recently seen Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake at the Birmingham Hippodrome I came out feeling like I never wanted to see the normal version EVER again!

I loved the Adam Cooper DVD. Although I agree about the lack of notes. Is the stranger a swan? Because every other time a swan appears Princey is dreaming, drunk or disturbed. But the stranger is definitely displaying pecking and cruelty by the end of the ball.

My 7yo daughter (who studies ballet and sat through the normal Swan Lake age 3) loves it also but she did find the Car Man very bloody. Poor wardrobe mistress! The Nutcracker???? What was that about? Never want to watch it again.

Best Wishes K. Mucklow

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2010 13:41:21 BDT
The sinister but sexy young stranger who gatecrashes the ball in Bourne's Swan Lake is clearly based on the character of the wicked Odile, the carbon copy of the heroine Odette. In the original Swan Lake the villainous Von Rothbart introduces Odile into the ball scene to beguile and seduce the young prince. In most productions Odette and Odile are played by the same dancer, hence in the Bourne version the caring and loving swan that inhabits the prince's fantasies and the dark stranger are played by the same male dancer. Your comments underline the lack of background material with this set and especially how Bourne's Swan Lake and Nutcracker relate to the originals. Viewers will also surely want more information about the principal dancers like Adam Cooper and Will Kemp (the latter substituting for Cooper in the London performance I saw of Swan Lake.) It would surely have been an easy matter to have cobbled together material from the original theatre programmes?

I don't think these are ideal introductions into the world of ballet for young children, given for example that in Carman the drifter is clearly seen to be having sex in a car with the town's sexually confused pretty boy. But a traditional version of the Nutcracker, of which the Covent Garden and Kirov versions can be recommended on dvd, can be a magical experience for them. - Guy.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2010 20:54:14 BDT
I agree. More notes needed. Particularly as Dance students are studying Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake for their B Tech and could do with as much insight as they can get, especially as its rare to catch a performance.

Still confused about the stranger. I get the
Odette/Odille parallel but noone introduces the stranger. (although he appears friendly with the private secretary and there's a gun exchange right at the end after the prince has shot his tarty girlfriend?) Maybe I'm being thick and the secretary is the Count.

Anyway the stranger is rather dashing in his DJ...

RE gay sex scene in the Car Man and children. This generation are a lot more clued up and accepting. Thank God. My 7 yo didn't bat an eyelid at that but she did think there was an awful lot of fake blood!

Good reviewing by the way. you certainly know your ballet!

Posted on 10 Apr 2013 18:05:16 BDT
I am a gran who just came back from stunning Sleeping Beauty in theatre last night. I have loved every production of Matthew Bourne's that I have seen. My grand daughter is only 15 months but when she is ready I would watch with her or better still take her to see a live performance. Getting bored with granny comments.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2013 10:22:23 BDT
I was not expressing anti-gran sentiments but the belief that traditional ballet productions both in terms of storyline and staging might be more appropriate for young children. Still, I realise that young people nowadays are street-wise at a very early age. So, call me old-fashioned.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2014 20:06:08 GMT
Merget says:
So just think before you write, Guy Mannering, and don't (as my own grandmother would have said) show yourself up. I share your opinion that none of Bourne's shows would be the ideal first experience of ballet for a young child (but then neither would many of the Diaghilev ballets have been: they were not put on for children).
I am a grandma. 'The Postman Rings Twice' came out when my mother was young (she preferred 'Double Indemnity').
Today's grandmas, owing to the catastrophic decline in subsequent education, are probably the most sophisticated people on the planet.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2014 21:57:48 GMT
Modern grans are certainly a lot more vociferous than they used to be.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2014 19:01:19 GMT
Merget says:
No they aren't. You just didn't listen.
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