NB: Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
Most people are familiar with the story of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Even if they haven’t seen the ballet, they will know some of the iconic music, in particular the dance of the cygnets. Personally – I love Swan Lake – so when an opportunity to see it performed on ice at the Capitol Theatre arose, I jumped at the chance.
In a nutshell – Prince Siegfried (Bogdan Berezenko) is being forced to choose a bride, happens across a group of white swans who transform into women, once of which is the beautiful Odette (Olga Sharutenko). They are under a spell from an evil sorcerer Rothbart (Sergei Lisev) and only take human form at night. They fall in love but in order to break the spell one who has never loved before must swear to love her forever.
There’s a ball where bridal prospects are paraded before the Prince, including the sorcerer’s daughter who he has made to look like the white swan. The Prince is duped, professes his love for the black swan Odile (Maria Mukhortova), Odette sees this, realises the spell will never be broken and flees. The Prince realises his mistake and follows. Rather than spend her entire life as a swan, she chooses to die and Odette and the Prince leap into the lake, effectively killing the sorcerer and breaking the spell.
You may wonder why this synopsis is important. Swan Lake on Ice did not conclude in this way. There was no sacrifice, no tragic ending, instead we were presented with the Disney version – the “child friendly” happily ever after. We are given a fight scene where the Prince is the big hero and instead of Odette determining her own destiny and saving herself from a life or torment, she is rescued by a man. The beauty of Swan Lake is in its tragedy, its heartbreak and the unyielding power of their love. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. Had a realised I was attending the “kid friendly” version I possibly wouldn’t have jumped so high for the chance.
Having said that, I have a lot of admiration for the performers, the way they effortlessly glide across the stage, fly through the air and balance on those tiny little blades. Tonight’s performance did nothing to diminish this high opinion as the cast executed trick after trick with ease. In particular the Prince’s best friend Benno (Stanislav Pertsov) was a scene stealer for his skill and comedic presence. Although it did often feel as if the performers were simply pulling out tricks to garner applause – such as fire juggling and aerial manoeuvres.
There were elements which seemed unnecessary – such as Odette adopting point shoes and attempting to execute ballet on ice. I’m still unclear as to the value this added. The staging was great and as snow fell from the “sky” it really did create a beautiful setting for this love story. I would suggest sitting back from the stage if you want to see the ice and their skates – too close and this is lost.
While I appreciate the need to take a well-known production and make it your own, completely re-writing a classic so that the ending is unrecognisable seems unnecessary and infuriating to anyone familiar with the tragic love story.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Swan Lake on Ice runs at the Capitol Theatre until tonight. For more information and to buy tickets head to the Capitol Theatre website. Reviewer attended on 25 July.
Image Credit: David Wyatt (Supplied)