Swan Lake/Loch na hEala
Music by Slow Moving Crowd.
By Michael Keegan-Dolan
Sadlers Wells Theatre
This is an ambitious reinterpretation of Swan Lake from a modern Irish perspective. Embedded in this ‘ballet’ is an acute critique of the Irish clergy. In this retelling by director/choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan the imprisoned swan princess is transformed in to a young woman who has been sexually abused by her priest. He is the modern Baron von Rothbart. Siegfried is not a prince in this production but a psychologically damaged young man whose mother seeks to marry him off to a local girl.
There are plenty of jokes which lampoon a country of bachelors. They also endorse the image of parts of Eire as a rural backwater. This is a brave retelling of the ballet through modern text, dance and music. The question is does the concept and realisation work?
If you accept it as dance theatre – yes. It is full of grotesquerie, it meanders from narrative storytelling, to folk dance, to bar room banter. It changes perspective constantly. There is a great deal of swearing and smoking and the tone is mostly angry. It may offend classicists and it certainly disturbed many London Irish families who walked out during the performance.
I found there were moments of genius but there were also many longueurs. The constantly changing aesthetic in the production is unsettling. Is this television realism or dance theatre? Is it a work that would have been more at home in a community theatre? The Irish storytelling tradition of one seated man talking to the audience works in a bar or small theatre. In this large-scale dance house the sole narrator seems dwarfed.
There was little unity to the spectacle. And perhaps this is Michael Keegan-Dolan’s wish. He finishes the performance with the cast throwing bird feathers on the stage and at the audience. This sweet end was a pretty picture which seemed to contradict the barren vision of the ninety minute staging.
Julia Pascal © 2016.