Wednesday 24 October 2018

An Irish take on Swan Lake

Swan Lake Loch nah Eala dancers mid-performance. Pic: Robbie Jacks
Swan Lake Loch nah Eala dancers mid-performance. Pic: Robbie Jacks

Sorcha Crowley

A real theatrical treat lies in store for us at the Hawk's Well later this month, with a two night performance of the critically acclaimed Irish adaptation of Swan Lake/Loch na hEala.

Starring Sligo's own Mikel Murfi among a cast of thirteen, it is a magical re-imagining of the 19th century Russian classical ballet into a modern day tale set in the midlands.

The most loved and mesmerising of classical ballets, Swan Lake was composed by Tchaikovsky in 1875 and over a century later it remains a favourite with ballet companies regularly performing it throughout the world.

Longford Artistic Director and Choreographer Micheal Keegan-Dolan had the idea in a "millisecond" of inspiration in January 2013 and the finished theatrical production premiered in Dublin in October 2016.

"I liked the idea that heroes can appear in any place. They don't have to be princes," he told The Sligo Champion from his new home in West Kerry.

"Heroes are usually 6ft 4" but you can find them in a shop in Longford and they're 5ft 7". Heroism is not just found in the realms of royalty," he said.

The original ballet is a timeless love story that mixes magic, tragedy, and romance into four acts. It features Prince Siegfried and a lovely swan princess named Odette. Under the spell of an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, Odette spends her days as a swan swimming on a lake of tears and her nights in her beautiful human form.

The couple quickly falls in love. As in most fairy tales, things are not that easy and the sorcerer has more tricks to play. That brings Odile, his daughter, into the picture. Confusion, forgiveness, and an ending with Siegfried and Odette together forever round off the ballet.

In Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, the Prince Siegfried character is adapted into 'Jimmy', an outsider in a Midlands town, struggling with depression after the death of his father, living with his mother.

Mikel Murfi plays the role of the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart in the shape of a narrator, a role Michael says was entirely inspired by Murfi's own performances in The Man in the Woman's Shoes.

"I got to know him well from 2008 onwards. Mikel's shows inspired me - he can shape shift so quickly - that sat quite well with the character of the evil sorcerer in Swan Lake," said Michael.

His adaptation takes on the themes of mother/son relationship as well as the traditional love theme: "it can be a treacherous relationship, in psychiatric terms, an overbearing mother, the whole' when are your going to get yourself a woman' notion. The whole issue of depression is very close to me," he said.

"It's important to connect these mythological stories with real life issues. It's very Irish and not Irish in other ways," he added.

The Swan Queen Odette and Odile is played by Michael's partner and mother of his two children Rachel Poirier. It has been performed to rave reviews in theatres in Sydney, Moscow, London, Denmark and Stuttgart to name a few.

It is the winner of Best Production and Best Costume Design at the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017 and is a "stunning" debut for Michael's new company, Teac Damsa.

Swan Lake/Loch na hEala performs Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd February. Tickets are €25, plus €1 Renovation Fee. Available on 071-9161518 or

Sligo Champion