THIS production of Swan Lake is one that rips up the rule book.

The swans, far from being delicate and feminine, are male, muscle-bound and aggressive.

The decision to use male swans by director and choreographer Matthew Bourne shocked audiences when the show was first staged 19 years ago.

There were regular walk-outs from audience members uncomfortable at the male swan dancing with the Prince and disappointed by the lack of tutus and pointe shoes.

But the show’s lasting popularity is testament to this production’s passion and power and to its incredible ability to entertain.

The plot focuses around a lonely and loveless young Prince who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, is deeply unhappy.

He is shunned by his cold mother, bound by royal responsibility to attend endless formal functions and utterly alone.

At his lowest ebb, following a drunken, Freudian tussle with his mother, the Prince goes to the park intending to take his own life.

It is the appearance of the swan as he tries to throw himself in the river that saves his life and gives him a taste of the freedom he craves.

But as he dances with the swan and his flock there is an undertone of aggression and uncertainty to the beautiful dance- a prelude to the violence in which the tale will ultimately end.

There were some spectacular performances from the dancers, with Chris Trenfield, as The Swan, stealing the show with a spellbinding turn.

He stalked the stage, seducing everyone on it, and the chemistry between him and the Prince, played by Billy Elliot star Liam Mower, was electric.

Mower makes a convincing Prince, fully embracing his little-boy-lost character, and he had the whole audience rooting for him even as he descended into madness.

Anjali Mehra also deserves a mention for her brilliant comic turn as the dappy, short-lived girlfriend of the Prince.

Award-winning choreography, set to the celebrated score, combine to make the production a feast for the eyes and the ears, while visual trickery with shadows and nightmarish dream sequences add an additional layer to this sumptuous show.

The cast and crew fully deserved the rapturous applause they received as the curtain went down.

This dance drama is an absolute treat- and there isn’t a tutu in sight.


Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake runs until Saturday, March 29 at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.