Living Spits' Swan Lake is much more than just Romeo and Juliet with birds

PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 January 2020

Living Spit will perform Swan Lake. Picture: Living Spit

Living Spit will perform Swan Lake. Picture: Living Spit

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High art met hijinks as Living Spit brought their unique take on Swan Lake to a packed Theatre Shop.

The performance of the smallest ballet ever devised at the intimate Clevedon venue was an absolute hoot.

Howard and Stu, aka Living Spit, took to the stage in waders and flippers welcomed the audience to an important meeting of WAC to discuss plans to change the name of Swan Lake, the collected wildfowl, aka the audience, were encouraged to honk and coo for the bald coot and mallard with an obsession with stale bread (audience participation, check), before they made their case for the name to stay as Swan Lake.

Bringing in a couple of turns, played by professional dancers Josh Hutchby and Francisco Mendo, the Spits take on Swan Lake is the most intimate ballet I have ever seen, and at the small Clevedon venue with only four rows of seats it was all the more immediate and mesmerizing.

It's also the most farcical, in the best way possible.

Though the roles Prince Siegfried (Hutchby) and Odette (Mendo) are unchanged, the world they inhabit is more pantomime than prima ballerina as Howard and Stu fill in the blanks by playing the role of an occasionally unreliable narrator, Siegfried's over-bearing mother, his loutish best friend, and the diabolical sorcerer Von Rothbart, complete with hokey eurotrash accent and a maniacal cackle.

It's irreverent, funny, and challenges the conventions of traditional ballet by creating an experience for the audience which is far more accessible, especially for those that wouldn't normally go see a traditional performance of the ballet, thanks to the clever narration and great musical turns from the Spits.

Breaking up the buffoonery though is a pair of captivating performances from Hutchby and Mendo, made all the more impressive thanks to the stripped back nature of the show, which places the pair front and centre, allowing the audience to appreciate the artistry and raw physicality of their performance.

The show is at its best though when the Spits' silliness collides with its more traditional aspects, I don't want to spoil it but to say the Spits found a novel way to make up for the lack of a chorus line is an understatement.

Some might say Tchaikovsky would be spinning in his grave, but I think he would more likely be doubled over laughing.

Swan Lake will be at the Blakehay Theatre, in Wadham Street, Weston-super-Mare, from January 15-18 at 7.30pm.

Tickets, priced £11.50-£18, are available form the box office on 01934 645493 or online at www.blakehaytheatre.co.uk

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