IT WAS the longest standing ovation I've ever seen at the Mayflower - and so well deserved.

The cast of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake revelled in the joy they brought to the nearly 2,000 strong audience for the Southampton opening of this week's run.

It's hard to believe that in 1995 ballet audiences walked out on Bourne's 'gay Swan Lake' cast with male swans.

Now the male dancers are so ingrained in worldwide dance culture they seem more natural than their female equivalent. There are some changes with this 2018 production as lighting and choreography have been adapted to give a new look.

But in a Q&A session at the end of the show the cast also reveal that they take on different roles throughout the week, sometimes changing their roles from day to day to keep the show fresh.

It's a detail that makes the show even more incredulous, given the dancers' expertise in each of their parts.

Stand-out performances from Max Westwell as The Swan, Dominic North as The Prince and Katrina Lyndon as The Queen really come to the fore in the second half.

When The Stranger drops onto the stage in leather trousers like something out of The Matrix there's a sense of the surreal.

Contrasting with the sumptuous blacks reds and golds of the royal ball, the desperate white of the asylum dream scene is so dramatic there are audible gasps from the audience as The Prince's story draws to a close. The first half of the show is technically great - but its the second half that holds all the emotion. And when the swans finally burst onto the stage - hissing like a gaggle of prissy queens - you remember they're why everyone has come.

Their virtuosity and animalistic grace is more moving the more you see it - and the side lighting of the final scene adds to their viciousness beautifully.

There are some new projections of silhouetted swans in flight in this production - which detract from the drama and don't really seem necessary.

But this show is all about perception, and how glorious it can be when we allow our perceptions to change.