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Cheat Sheet:
Matthew Bourne ballets

Sydney Opera House

He's one of the most successful names in dance, bringing ballet into the 21st century with innovative reimaginings of classic works. Before you tune into Sir Matthew Bourne's five greatest works on Stream, check out our handy cheat sheet with video introductions from the man himself.

Three dancers from The Australian Ballet position angled in white leotards in front of a white background with black dots

Swan Lake


A Snapshot

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is still best known for replacing the female corps-de-ballet in tutus with a bare-chested, menacing ensemble of male swans, which shattered conventions and turned tradition upside down. This reinterpretation was created out of Bourne’s fascination with what he saw as a hidden message around the Prince’s reluctance to take a bride and the idea of the male swan as powerful, wild and dangerous. Bourne set out to wipe away the powerful images of the ballerina swan that were so embedded in the psyche of dance enthusiasts and even the wider public. 

Since taking the dance world by storm when the groundbreaking work first premiered in 1995, this Swan Lake returns on film with a fresh look for the 21st century. Still retaining the iconic elements of the original production loved by millions, award-winning designers, Lez Brotherston and Paule Constable, alongside Bourne, have created an exciting re-imagining of the classic production.

Watch now

Trivia

  • The work has collected thirty international accolades, including an Olivier Award in the UK and three Tonys on Broadway, Bourne’s powerful interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece is a passionate and contemporary Swan Lake for our times.

  • When Bourne’s approach for the work was announced, some dance writers and balletomanes were horrified at the thought of the carnage that lay ahead. Some took pains to point out it was a great “tragedy” with a profound message, implying Bourne hardly had the credentials to tackle such a masterpiece of ballet history. Others nudged Bourne and said they couldn’t wait – “It’s going to be such a scream!” they said, expecting a riotous parody or camp send-up. There was a “David and Goliath” feel about this project. The small, quirky company run by an East-end upstart with no traditional classical ballet credentials taking on this hallowed classic. Bourne certainly had something to prove.

Relevance

It was a challenging piece for many when it premiered. Some more traditional critics were not amused, and there were walk-outs when The Swan and Prince danced together, and young girls with buns in tears that Mummy had brought them to the “wrong” Swan Lake. It was also dubbed by many as “the gay Swan Lake” which Bourne is happy to celebrate but feels that was not the whole story. Despite this, it has become a modern classic and is a “bring the whole family” treat, beloved by the British and worldwide public alike; an example of what dance is capable of and how it can reach previously un-dreamed of new audiences.

Background

  • Bourne’s Swan Lake first premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 1995.

  • Film was recorded in 2018 at Sadler’s Wells.

Cast & crew

The cast

The Swan/Stranger Will Bozier

The Prince Liam Mower

The Queen Nicole Kabera 

The Girlfriend Katrina Lyndon

The Private Secretary Glenn Graham

The Company: Andrew Ashton, Jonathon Luke Baker, Alistair Beattie, Megan Cameron, João Castro, Kayla Collymore, Zanna Cornelis, Freya Field, Kennan Fletcher, Bryony Harrison, Parsifal James Hurst, Shoko Ito, Nicholas Keegan, Courtney Liu, James Lovell, Harry Ondrak-Wright, Ashley-Jordan Packer, Jack William Parry, Barnaby Quarendon, Sam Salter, Stan West, Carrie Willis

Creatives & Production

Director & Choreographer Matthew Bourne

Set & Costume Designer Lez Brotherston

Lighting Designer Paule Constable

Sound Designer Ken Hampton

Video Designer Duncan Mclean

Associate Artistic Director Etta Murfitt

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The acclaim


★★★★★

“Strong storytelling and a charged emotional core ensured that Swan Lake flew, and continues to fly”

The Guardian


★★★★★

“Absolutely breathtaking"

New York Theatre Guide

 

★★★★★

“Witty, Menacing, Lyrical and Wild”

The Daily Telegraph

Three dancers from The Australian Ballet position angled in white leotards in front of a white background with black dots

Romeo & Juliet


A Snapshot

Matthew Bourne brings Shakespeare’s classic story of love and conflict to life with a dark twist in his signature style. In this take on Romeo & Juliet, the story is set in the not-too-distant future in the "Verona Institute", where troubled teenagers are strictly controlled. The setting provides the ideal backdrop to explore how society often seeks to divide and crush youthful spirits. This production is particularly special, as its cast features talented emerging dancers from around the UK.

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Trivia

  • The company for Romeo & Juliet featured 100 young dancers and artists making their debuts with New Adventures. In a model unique to the company, at each venue on the tour they were joined by six local young dancers aged between 16-19 years old.

  • For the first time New Adventures welcomed six young associate artists to work with the creative team in choreography, set and costume design, lighting, sound, orchestration and conducting.

  • The first kiss between Romeo & Juliet was described as "what may be the longest, most acrobatic kiss ever sustained while dancing" (New York Times). 

Relevance

  • Rather than warring families and feuds, mental health and sexual harassment lead to the eventual tragedy, which are issues relevant to audiences today.

  • This story or forbidden love, repressed emotions and teenage discovery is energised and refreshed by the young cast.

  • As Bourne does in other works, he explores homeeroticism through the bond between Mercutio, Balthasar and Benvolio.

Background

The film was directed by Ross MacGibbon and filmed live at Sadler’s Wells in 2019.

Cast & crew

The cast

Romeo Paris Fitzpatrick 

Juliet Cordelia Braithwaite 

Tybalt Dan Wright 

Mercutio Ben Brown 

Balthasar Jackson Fisch 

Benvolio Harrison Dowzell 

Senator & Mrs Montague Matt Petty & Daisy May Kemp 

Rev. Bernadette Laurence Daisy May Kemp 

Frenchie Hannah Mason 

Dorcas Bryony Harrison 

Magdalen Monique Jonas 

Lavinia Roisin Whelan 

Morgan Sharol Mackenzie 

Edmund Christopher Thomas 

Lennox Alexander Fadayiro 

Sebastian Callum Bowman

Fabian Cameron Flynn 

Griffin Mark Samaras 

Nurses, Guard & Orderly Daisy May Kemp & Matt Petty 

Governor Escalus Monique Jonas 

Psychiatrist Ben Brown 

Local cast

Faith Tanisha Addicott 

Martha Emily Galvin 

Bridget Hannah Kremer 

Rafe Janacek Wood

Ambrose Ashton Hall

Swings Kate Lyons & Mark Samaras

Creatives and production

Directed & Choreographed by Matthew Bourne 

Music Sergei Prokofiev 

Set and Costume Design Lez Brotherston 

Lighting Design Paule Constable 

Sound Design Paul Groothuis 

Orchestrations Terry Davies 

Associate Artistic Director Etta Murfitt 

Musical Director & Principal Conductor Brett Morris 

Young Associate Choreographer Arielle Smith 

Young Associate Set and Costume Designer Elin Steele 

Young Associate Lighting Designer Ali Hunter 

Young Associate Sound Designer Rachel Goldberg 

Young Associate Orchestrator Alexander Ling Young 

Associate Conductor Ellie Slorach

The acclaim


“Britain’s most successful choreographer will blow your mind with his sheer imagination, wit, and brio”

The Times



“Electrifying entertainment’

Daily Telegraph

 

“Classic stories with a twist – accessible, but with a powerful emotional undertow”

Sunday Times

Three dancers from The Australian Ballet position angled in white leotards in front of a white background with black dots

The Red Shoes


A Snapshot

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes is based on the 1984 movie by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburher, which in turn was shaped around Hans Christian Andsersen’s story of the same name. While Bourne holds onto some of Andersen themes of vanity and religious redemption, it’s the image of the red shoes that once put on will not allow the wearer to stop dancing that remains so potent. The Red Shoes is ultimately a tale of obsession, possession and one girl's dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. 

This two-act narrative dance was first performed in 2016 at the Sadler's Wells Theatre, London. The show itself won Best Entertainment award and Bourne won the award Best Theatre Choreographer at the 2017 Olivier Awards.

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Trivia

  • Bourne describes it as a story that asks us to take art seriously as a life-changing force: something that gives intense joy but also asks for and requires sacrifices - "nothing else matters but art."
  • It is a ballet within a ballet - set in the theatrical world of a touring dance (ballet) company, it is actually about dance and dancers - love vs. art, or career vs. love.
  • Bourne watched Powell and Pressburger’s film as a teenager and, at that point, had never seen a ballet live on stage.

Relevance

  • As Bourne said: “In today’s culture everyone is very interested in what it takes to become a great performer or artist with the likes of TV and movies such as the X Factor, Black Swan and Strictly Come Dancing highlighting this and the question of what sacrifices need to be made.
  • Audiences also love a backstage story, particularly one that gives insight into the art form.

Background

  • The ballet premiered on 6 December 2016 at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London and went on to tour extensively.
  • This production was filmed in December 2019 at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London.

Cast & crew

The Cast

Victoria Page - Ashley Shaw

Boris Lermontov - Adam Cooper

Julian Craster - Dominic North 

Irina Boronskaya - Michela Meazza 

Ivan Boleslawsky - Liam Mower

Grischa Ljubov - Glenn Graham 

The Company - Stephanie Billers, Ben Brown, Joao Carolino, Reece Causton, Harrison Dowzell, Jackson Fisch, Rose Goddard, Bryony Harrison, Daisy May Kemp, Kate Lyons, Danny Reubens

Creatives and Production

Directed and Choreographed by Matthew Bourne 

Directed for the Screen by Ross Macgibbon

Music by Bernard Herrmann

Orchestrations and additional music by Terry Davies

Set and Costume Design Lez Brotherston 

Lighting Design Paule Constable 

Sound Design Paul Groothuis 

Projection Design Duncan Mclean

The acclaim

★★★★★

“Demonstrates how deeply Bourne is in love with dance"

The Guardian


★★★★★

“An exhilarating theatrical triumph"

The Week

 

★★★★★

“Utterly enthralling”

 Daily Express 

The Car Man


A Snapshot

The Car Man is Matthew Bourne’s take on arguably the most iconic opera there is: Carmen (get it?). Not much remains from Bizet’s original story – instead, Bourne borrows narrative cues from the noir novel and film The Postman Always Rings Twice. The score, though, is a variation of the opera’s iconic music.

The Car Man is a sultry story of a stranger called Luca arriving in a mid-western, Italian American community called Harmony. Torrid affairs, suspected murder and bare-knuckle brawls ensue, set across diners, mechanics’ garages and sleazy nightclubs.

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Trivia

  • Despite being revived later in the 2000s, The Car Man debuted way back in 2000 – though its American tour was cut short by the September 11 attacks.

  • Like most of Bourne’s work, the official programme for The Car Man had little-to-no detail about the plot, instead Bourne tries to elucidate the story purely through dance.

Relevance

  • Deviating from the source material of Carmen and The Postman Always Ring Twice, Bourne writes his protagonist as bisexual, adding a gay affair and a handful of explicitly homoerotic moments to the story.

  • Bourne garnered much acclaim for making this work accessible for those who might not know ballet well, or the stories behind many of the classical mainstays. In his review, The Guardian journalist Luke Jennings explained: “It’s this configuring of productions for everyone, rather than for a selected cadre of dance-world insiders and cultural initiates, that has brought Bourne worldwide success.”

Background

  • The film was shot at Sadler’s Wells during their 2015 National Tour.  

  • Given Bourne is the lover of film that he is, it’s no surprise that the production was shot with an impressive six cameras.

Cast & crew

The Cast

Dino Alfano, owner of

Dino’s diner and garage Alan Vincent

Lana, his wife Zizi Strallen

Rita, her younger sister Kate Lyons

Angelo, a hired help Dominic North

Luca, a drifter Christopher Trenfield

Mercedes Cordelia Braithwaite

Monica Katrina Lyndon

Gina Nicole Kabera

Sandra Katie Webb

Delores/ Shirley Pia Driver

Rocco Daniel Collins

Bruno Glenn Graham

Hot Rod Tom Clarke

Vito Andrew Monaghan

Marco Danny Reubens

Chad Leon Moran

Dirk/ Dexter Dan Wright


Cabaret Act

Virginia Kate Lyons

Jose Dan Wright

Erik Andrew Monaghan


Crew

Director & Choreographer Matthew Bourne

Set & Costume Design Lez Brotherston

Lighting Designer Chris Davey

Sound Designer Paul Groothuis

Music Terry Davies


For the screen

Director Ross MacGibbon

Executive Producer John Wyver

Producer Lucie Conrad

The acclaim


★★★★★

“It’s this configuring of productions for everyone, rather than for a selected cadre of dance-world insiders and cultural initiates, that has brought Bourne worldwide success. The Car Man delivers everything it promises. See it.”

The Guardian



“Is there a better dance show currently running than Matthew Bourne’s “The Car Man”? It seems unlikely."

New York Times

 

“Superb, witty, drop-dead-sexy”

 Daily Telegraph

Three dancers from The Australian Ballet position angled in white leotards in front of a white background with black dots

Cinderella


A Snapshot

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is a reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale audiences know and love. This version is set in London in 1940, where Cinderella and a young RAF pilot fall in love but are parted by the horrors of the Blitz. Bourne was inspired to set this famous story in this time after listening to Prokofiev’s score, and realising it was written during the Second World War. Bourne felt the music reflected this dark period of history “when time was everything, love was found and lost suddenly and the world danced as if there was no tomorrow”.

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Trivia

  • Bourne’s regular collaborator, designer Lez Brotherson won an Olivier Award for his original Cinderella costume designs in 1997.

  • Australian ballerina Ashley Shaw plays the lead role of Cinderella in the film. She played Cinderella in Bourne’s production from 2017-2019 and joined Bourne’s company New Adventures in 2010. 

  • In this story, Bourne has added three-step brothers to Cinderella’s dysfunctional family who both make her life difficult and provide comedic relief. 

Relevance

Bourne said he dedicated the original production to his grandparents who kept their families together in London during the Blitz. Despite the Blitz happening over 75 years ago, the wartime experience still resonates with many audiences as part of their family history. The setting of the story is a reminder of the spirit and courage of those who made sacrifices, or who found and lost love during this time.

Background

  • The ballet premiered in 1997 at Piccadilly Theatre London

  • The revival was first performed in 2010 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth

  • It has been performed across the UK, US, Europe and Asia.

  • The production was filmed live at Sadler’s Well in December 2017

Cast & crew

The cast

Cinderella Ashley Shaw 

Harry The Pilot Andrew Monaghan 

The Stepmother Michela Meazza 

The Angel Liam Mower 

The Father Alan Vincent 

The Stepsisters Stephanie Billers 

Nicole Kabera 

The Stepbrothers Jackson Fisch Stephen Murray Daniel Wright 

The Company: Reece Causton Joao Carolino Glenn Graham Sophia Hurdley Jack Jones Kate Lyons Jamie McDonald Dominic North Danny Reubens Katie Webb 

Creatives and Production

Director & Choreographer Matthew Bourne 

Set & Costume Designer Lez Brotherston

Lighting Designer Duncan McLean 

Sound Designer Paul Groothuis

Projection Design Duncan McLean

Associate Artistic Director Etta Murfitt

Music by Sergei Prokofiev

Resident Director Neil Westmoreland 

Directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon

Executive Producer for Illuminations John Wyver 

The acclaim


“A valentine to the power of love”

LA Times


★★★★
“Blitz fairytale spins light through darkness"

The Guardian

 

“A perfect treat”

The Daily Telegraph

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