Max Westwell: 'You think of swans as beautiful, but they're also quite scary'

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

credit: Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake bolsters some added testosterone

It's often incorrectly labelled the 'all-male' Swan Lake, which must be a little galling for the fabulous female dancers who perform in Matthew Bourne's signature work.

What is true, is that the corps de ballet of swans in Act Two, usually danced by a large group of women, is performed exclusively by men. All those who have seen the show will know just what that injection of testosterone brings.

'In terms of physicality and emotion they bring the menace of a swan and add a very dominant side to the role,' says Max Westwell, who is about to make his company debut as the lead swan. 'You think of swans as beautiful, but they're also quite scary.'

Westwell spent much of his career to date dancing with English National Ballet, before moving into musical theatre in the West End to hone his acting skills. Which made Bourne's New Adventures the perfect fit.

'I've always been really interested in narrative and story, and always wanted to be an actor,' says Westwell. 'Matthew's was the only company I could see that was completely narrative and told stories in that way. It's like my two loves blended together, so I'm very happy to be here.'

To walk straight into the most coveted, and arguably most memorable, role in Bourne's entire canon is quite an achievement. What was Westwell's perception of the show before he joined the company?

'I'd seen Swan Lake a few times and loved it because it was so powerful,' he says. 'It also doesn't take itself too seriously – it has humour, serious grit and power, and you don't often see those things put together so well. So I'm just really excited to be dancing in it now, and learning about the movement, what it all means and where it comes from.'

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 16-Sat 20 Oct.

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

Matthew Bourne's unmissable take on the most famous ballet in the classical canon. Prepare to laugh your socks off then cry your heart out.