The Red Shoes

Bourne says The Red Shoes is a modern story of ‘obsession
and celebrity’; it is a melodrama -  the
tale of the all-consuming nature of making art witnessed through the life of a
young dancer who makes the wrong choice by choosing art before love, a choice
which leads to her tragic death.


But on the way to
her untimely death, Bourne presents the audience with a wonderful, sumptuous
ballet. This stage production is based on Red Shoes the great 1948 ballet film
by Powell and Pressburger, based in turn on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy
tale. In the Forties’ film the young dancer, Victoria Page, and the young
composer, Julian Craster, are taken on by the tyrannical, charismatic, ballet
impresario, Lermontov. Victoria has her chance to become a star when the prima
ballerina of the company is injured. However, by then she has fallen in love
with Caster, who is composing the score for Red Shoes. Jealous Lermontov
banishes Craster from the troupe, thus setting the stage for the tragedy.

The complexity of Red Shoes is that The Red Shoes is a
ballet within a ballet. The ingenious device of designer Lez Brotherson’s
lavish, moving proscenium arch reveals on-stage and off-stage, beach and
bedroom, Covent Garden and Monte Carlo. This allows a voyeuristic view of the
ballet troupe and the constant mixing of ‘real life’ and ‘art’, and the
incorporation of pastiches of twentieth century ballet give Red Shoes its pace:  the juxtaposing of intimate scenes with the
ensemble, the glorious scene in the rehearsal room when the stars, jaded Irina
(Michela Meazza) the camp Ivan (Jackson Fisch) walk through their number
dressed in fur coat and kimono under the watchful eye of the ballet master
(Liam Mower), the ballet on the beach in Villefrance-sur-mer with oversized
beach balls, the solo performance by Victoria (Cordelia Braithwaite) at the end
of Act 1, when the red shoes first show their evil nature, the sand dancers in
desert boots in a seedy theatre in London.

The choreography matches the mood of the scenes
perfectly. There is real tenderness in the pas-de-deux between Craster (Dominic
North) and Victoria and in the trio dances with Lermontov (Glenn Graham) the
battle for control and emotion is apparent. This is reinforced by the wonderful
atmospheric score by Bernard Hermann with arrangements by Terry Davies. The
incorporation of music from the 1966 film Farenheit 451 is sensational.

There are outstanding performances by the lead dancers
but in truth the whole cast are exceptional and bring the dark story to life
with remarkable energy and  precision.
The costumes are delightful, the scenery redolent of the times - all in all a
feast for the eyes and emotions.

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes is at Milton Keynes
Theatre until Saturday 1st February

Conditions apply

0844871 7652