>swan lake city by national theatre of northern greece

>reviewed by malcolm tay

>date: 9 jun 2004
>time: 8pm
>venue: esplanade theatre
>rating: **1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


The National Theatre of Northern Greece's SWAN LAKE CITY is the latest new-and-maybe-improved take on the 19th-century ballet staple to hit local shores. And, like many other attempts at revising this four-act warhorse, this version by director-choreographer Konstantinos Rigos didn't quite take off.

Most viewers, I think, would have liked seeing an enduring symbol of classical ballet being merrily mangled into something wild, bleak, and occasionally funny. But beyond its feral and near-nude frolics, and its handsome and gutsy cast of 12, the 90-minute production was lost on me after a while.

Set in a trailer park, a huge "Swan Lake" sign hung in the background. Various household items - a refrigerator, a cooking unit, a bare Christmas tree, even a stuffed swan - framed the central space, littered with bunches of white tulle (these later made way for real feathers). How do the white trash, who enter and leave from the main caravan upstage, spend their days?

>>'Most viewers, I think, would have liked seeing an enduring symbol of classical ballet being merrily mangled into something wild, bleak, and occasionally funny.'

Apparently, the residents of SWAN LAKE CITY are engaged in a futile and endless search for love, sometimes with violent results. Unlike the ballet's romance between Prince Siegfried and Odette the Swan Queen, they were never touched or redeemed by love. Which explains why the piece doesn't have a Siegfried or an Odette - they wouldn't have fit in here.

Rigos' send-up of various scenes and characters from 'Swan Lake' probably had some balletomanes replaying the Petipa-Ivanov original in their heads. Siegfried with his crossbow appeared briefly as a redneck hunter with a rifle. The Act III character dances were turned into an international beauty parade. Four men jogging in jockstraps doubled as an all-male equivalent to Act II's trotting quartet of cygnets.

And there are the more blatant jokes, like the swimming competition, and the radio-aired recipe for swan in tomato sauce. They're all somewhat amusing, I guess, but rather pointless. It's as if Rigos was trying to wring as many circus tricks as he could from his source of inspiration.

Speckled throughout SWAN LAKE CITY were several angsty solos and group dances that showed off the company dancers. Strong, supple, and daring, they looked as though they would be able to do - and ace - anything asked of them. As their names weren't matched to any face-cuts in the programme, I can only single out Albanian native Giannis Martos, who gamely displayed innumerable ways to dunk himself in a small basin of water.

In addition to bits and pieces of Tchaikovsky's score on tape, Apostolos Leventopoulos and Tilemachos Mousas accompanied the dancers on electric guitar with their wonderfully edgy renditions of the ballet's famous theme. Without the intrusion of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion, the music would have been the best part of the show.