Over twenty years after its first premier and UK tour, Matthew Bourne’s multi award-winning modernisation of Tchaikovsky’s beloved fairy-tale returns to The Alhambra where Leo Owen caught the show

An impressively over-sized ornate bed engulfs a writhing prince (Dominic North), disturbed by nightmares, as a dark figure looms above, foreshadowing events to come. In this revamped revival Designer Lez Brotherton and Lighting Designer Paule Constable showcase new innovations, including swan projections.

Brotherton’s lavish set is breath-taking and versatile, swivelling the central bed to create a balcony for fans to admire their sovereigns from. Sumptuous colourful butterfly costumes are the show’s stand-out as dancers perform ballet scenes for the royals to watch from a side box. A neon bar “Swank” sign and newspaper splattered door announce a “Royal Rumpus at Toff’s Gala” while a beautiful white wintery nightscape is the most visually alluring. Brotherton’s white asylum contrasts to the elaborate opening with nurses in sterile high-necked costumes harshly lit and sinisterly silhouetted.

Bourne’s revised choreography perfectly complements Brotherton with the nurses, convulsively moving in unison, to collectively create an improvised gurney for electric shock therapy. Montage sequences emphasise the intensity of celebrity, following the royals to various paparazzi red rope engagements.

The company of swans demonstrate tremendous strength and energy, carrying a twirling prince while jerkily moving heads and feet to mimic their waterfowl brothers. Bourne’s steamy second half is undoubtedly the most tense and dramatic with sexual dervishes; a heated shot drinking competition, exuding sensuality and chemistry, and his lead swan (Will Bozier) bewitching female cast with multiple sexually charged pas des deux.

Despite its dark subject-matter and remaining almost exclusively wordless, Bourne’s Swan Lake is surprisingly funny. The prince’s uncouth date (Katrina Lyndon) gets a laugh as she answers her mobile during the mock ballet show and applauses at wrong moments. Other small observational touches, including the repeated appearance of a fake dog, playfully add humour.

A tale of deteriorating mental health and repressed sexuality/desire, Bourne’s Swan Lake is erotic, but tender and both technically complex and alluring to watch, undoubtedly deserving the standing ovation it unanimously commands.

Swan Lake shows at The Alhambra, November 6-10 before continuing its tour: new-adventures.net/swan-lake