Swan Lake/Loch na hEala
Music by Slow Moving Crowd.
By Michael Keegan-Dolan
Sadlers Wells Theatre
Julia Pascal

 

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.

6. Michael Keegan Dolan - Swan Lake (Photo credit Colm Hogan)
7. Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Photo by Colm Hogan
8. Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Photo by Colm Hogan
9 Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Photo by Colm Hogan
10. Michael Keegan Dolan - Swan Lake (credit Colm Hogan)
1. Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Photo by Colm Hogan
2. Michael Keegan Dolan - Swan Lake (Photo credit Colm Hogan)
3. Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Photo by Colm Hogan
4. Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan. Photo by Colm Hogan
5. Michael Keegan Dolan - Swan Lake (Photo credit Colm Hogan) (1).jpg