Swan Lake

Apr 1 2023 | By More

★★★★☆   Classically beautiful

Festival Theatre: 30 Mar – 1 Apr 2023
Review by Suzanne O’Brien

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s traditional Swan Lake spellbinds its audience with Tchaikovsky’s iconic and emotive score performed live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, just as Odile spellbinds Prince Siegfried.

The prologue opens with a funeral procession for the death of Prince Siegfried’s father, making clear the darkness of the story which is about to unfold, with its elements of folktale and fairytale; the evil sorcerer, a prince, a princess and doomed love.

A scene from the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake. Pic: BRB.

Peter Wright and Galina Samsova’s production is the epitome of elegance with impressive grand designs by Philip Prowse that complement the action and place the ballet at the forefront.

In a castle courtyard in which the prince, (Brandon Lawrence) is celebrating his birthday and his friends are desperately trying to lift him out of his deep sadness.

spectacular solo

Organised by close friend Benno, multiple solos and group numbers are performed for the purpose of entertaining him. Riku Ito performs a spectacular solo as Benno, with a weightless feel which sees him reach immense height. Yet, the overarching feel remains sombre, as the pressure on the prince to marry becomes evident.

The piece really comes to life in the second act, when the prince discovers the Cygnets and Swan Maidens. The Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet evoke the beauty of swans with Lev Ivanov’s, Marius Petipa’s and Peter Wright’s delicate choreography. They move and excel in what swans do best – appearing elegant on the top whilst completing complex footwork beneath the water.

A scene from the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake. Pic: BRB.

This is when we first see the stunning Princess Odette played in this performance by Celine Gittens who transforms from a swan into a beautiful Maiden. Gittens has an incredible stillness which draws the audience in and refuses to let them go. It’s no wonder that the prince almost instantly falls in love.

visually rich

Returning to the castle, potential partners of the prince try to outshine each other in the hopes of winning his affection. Here are dances with Polish, Italian and Spanish influences. Although visually rich in the choreography and detailed costume, this is one part of the production which seems to slow the piece down, slightly losing its momentum which had been built successfully.

Following this showcase, the black swan Odile, who is disguised as Odette and is also played by Gittens, is used by the cunning sorcerer Rothbart (Rory Mackay) to trick the prince.

A scene from the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake. Pic: BRB.

The heavily adorned costumes worn in the royal ballroom which are, of course, beautiful, do seem weighty and restrictive. It is one of the few more traditional aspects which feel outdated and could be improved on in a way that maintains its original essence.

All comes to a climax in the return to the lake, which is simply mesmerising in its storytelling, undeniable emotion and gasp-worthy special effects as the swans rise from a sea of mist.


In a climate where radical reinterpretations are getting increasingly popular, it is refreshing to see a production which stays true to the original in both style and feel.

There is a reason why Swan Lake is one of the world’s most famous ballets and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production does it justice.

Running time: Two hours and 50 minutes (including 2 intervals and a short pause)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT.
Thurs 30 Mar – Sat 1 April 2023
Evenings: 7.30pm, Mats Thurs: 2pm, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

A scene from the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake. Pic: BRB.


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