Choreographer returns 'home' with his groundbreaking Swan Lake show
Su Carroll talks to top choreographer Matthew Bourne about his work.
Matthew Bourne can be forgiven for feeling a bit jet-lagged. He's just returned from Cleveland in the States where his production of Sleeping Beauty played to its biggest audience ever – 2,600 in the Palace Theatre on Playhouse Square.
Sleeping Beauty is billed as a Gothic romance, a reworking of the traditional story and part of a Tchaikovsky trilogy for Matthew's New Adventures company alongside Swan Lake and Nutcracker! (the exclamation mark is Matthew's finishing touch).
Apparently Gina Vernaci at Playhouse Square has been trying to persuade Matthew to perform in Cleveland and it proved to be third time lucky.
For Plymouth's Theatre Royal, it usually proves to be first time lucky as Sleeping Beauty, along with The Car Man, Edward Scissorhands and Cinderella all beginning national tours (and sometimes pre-West End runs) at the theatre.
Plymouth is practically a second home for Matthew's company and he has fond memories of bringing his new shows to the city – firstly at the Barbican Theatre, helping to unload sets and costumes from the back of the van, and more recently at the Theatre Royal.
Matthew, 53, admits he has "fiddled" with Sleeping Beauty since it premiered in Plymouth.
"I made a few changes after Plymouth's first performances, but it was one of those ones which came together very quickly and I felt it was working from the word 'go'."
He also has praise for the support of the theatre and the audience in opening his shows in the city.
"They know the shows are starting out and they get into the spirit of supporting the new show. It has its own excitement. The wonderful thing about the audience is that, when you've been coming that amount of time, you get a sense of coming home a bit and Plymouth is definitely at the top of that list."
Plymouth gets another Matthew Bourne premiere as his revival of Swan Lake begins a national tour at the Theatre Royal.
First performed in 1995, it was an instant classic, but not without its controversy as Matthew replaced the traditional female corps de ballet with an powerful and athletic all-male chorus. It won more than 30 awards – including three Tonys for its Broadway run – and has been revived several times since.
Matthew says that the young company for the new tour remind him of what a landmark production it was.
"They grew up with Swan Lake as the show they wanted to be in," he says. "For many, it was the first thing they saw that made them want to dance. Some of them even studied the show at school. A lot of them tell me they've written essays on me! It's lovely really, to be fulfilling the dreams of people.
"Swan Lake has a big role in popularising dance as it's become, but at the time there were a lot of people telling me that I had done a terrible thing; it was shocking people and upsetting the ballet world. It still makes good copy today.
"But I'm not the bad boy of ballet. I just set out to capture the imagination of people and the company's done that ever since."
Matthew's company, New Adventures, balances the old favourites that everyone wants to see, with new work. He's reviving The Car Man (inspired by Bizet's Carmen) and Edward Scissorhands and is working on a new show, Lord of the Flies.
In the meantime he's in the thick of rehearsals for Swan Lake with his young company.
"I love working with them... although I'm almost old enough to be their dad. Swan Lake was 18 years ago and no-one's yet said it was before they were born... but it's only a matter of time," he laughs.
Matthew Bourne's New Adventures production of Swan Lake is at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, from October 18-26.