Captivating from start to finish, Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes is one not to be missed. We were transformed back to the nostalgia of the 1940s and taken into the world of a life in theatre and dance. The combination of contemporary and balletic styles made for an emotional watch and allowed us to understand how difficult the industry can be. As Michael Powell said: ‘The Red Shoes told us to go and die for art.’
”This battle between art and love is well depicted on stage, and it truly makes us question the lengths that people go in order to achieve stardom”
The Red Shoes loosely follows the 1948 film of the same name and takes on the dark, mystical narrative of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale. It centres on the rise of the dancer, Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw) and her struggle to choose between her love for the composer, Julian Craster (Chris Trenfield) or higher artistic achievement which is represented by the dance company’s impresario, Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer). This battle between art and love is well depicted on stage, and it truly makes us question the lengths that people go in order to achieve stardom.
”Ashley Shaw was a heartfelt heroine from the outset, and her mastery of the dance style was shown effortlessly”
New Adventures should be commended on how beautifully they portrayed this timeless story. Ashley Shaw was a heartfelt heroine from the outset, and her mastery of the dance style was shown effortlessly. The two male leads, Sam Archer and Chris Trenfield, portray their characters extremely well, with Lermontov’s assertive and commanding nature apparent as soon as he walks on stage, and Craster’s agony at slowly losing the woman he loves.
Similarly, the ensemble are also outstanding in their work, bringing to life the time era, and their vivid facial expressions to convey their boredom, love or despair, added to the production immensely. Additionally, by choosing the music score of Bernard Herrmann, whose work was prevalent in the time era we are taken back to, adds a richness to the overall scene. The breaks in music, when there were times of silence on the stage, is unusual in a ballet but gave across the unfiltered nature of The Red Shoes as a production, as life is art.
”The props and staging were magnificent”
What was most successful was how the stage managed to combine a professional ballet performance and a sneak into the backstage life of a ballerina. We weren’t the only audience in the theatre, as the audio of clapping and curtains closing on stage, meant that we were seeing the real ballet, the one behind the curtains. The props and staging were magnificent and were able to make the audience see between the facade of Victoria Page’s performance and the trauma that she was dealing with in her personal life. Particularly impressive was the scene with the two beds on either side of the curtain which showed the two lives that she could lead: one with her love, and the other with her art.
The costume design of Lez Brotherston, should also not be forgotten. The colourful and periodic choices of styling really added to the scene. In particular, the red dress in ‘The Ballet of the Red Shoes’ was transformed from one of luxury and decadence, to complete rags, to emphasise the exhaustive magic of not being able to stop dancing. The East End costumes of Egyptian robes and feathery showgirl outfits added to the humour of the production and again emphasised how different a life on stage is to reality.
”It is a perfect ballet for those who have not experienced this love before, as you get a true insight into what the world of dance can be like”
Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of an age-old classic film with elements of the original fairytale tragedy allows for The Red Shoes to become a flawless show. Not only does it tackle a challenging storyline but it does so expertly. It is a perfect ballet for those who have not experienced this love before, as you get a true insight into what the world of dance can be like. It will make you too, fall in love with the ballet.
10/10 – Utterly faultless
Image courtesy of The Theatre Royal
‘The Red Shoes’ is running at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 11th March. For more information, and to book tickets, see here