Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Immaculate Bourne!

The Red Shoes

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures , Wales Millennium Centre , March-14-17
The Red Shoes by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures A magnificent totally absorbing and sweeping piece of perfect theatre art. These red shoes look pretty and attractive but they didn’t have quite the effect on the wearer you might expect. Whilst it is most certainly based on the iconic film of 1948 so skillfully produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, this unique reinterpretation by Matthew Bourne thrills in its own remarkable way. He brings us a ‘new’ score direct from the film music of the multi talented twentieth century composer Bernard Herrmann . New Adventures’ music director Terry Davies has done a great job melding Herrmann’s sweeping music to carry through the dramatic and magical atmosphere of the narrative.

Lez Brotherston’s wonderful set design is almost another dancer in the company with each of its changes being equally and elegantly choreographed as the dancing itself. And what dancing; there is something special about Matthew Bourne dancers, they totally captive, draw us in to the work and invite us to share in their joy.

Brotherston’s crisp costumes tell us we are in the sophisticated 1920s, lots of smoking, a few with cigarette holders but we are very much into the world of ballet. The curtains on the set’s versatile proscenium arch part a little and we are welcomed by a single dancer who we get to know later is Victoria Page (played by Moira Shearer in the film) who gets to eventually wear the red shoes. Ashley Shaw creates, despite the ups and downs the story takes her through, a joyful, almost childlike, entrancing character; a wonder to watch as she continues this joy and vitality right up to the final, really unexpected but brilliantly staged final moment of this continually amazing work.

The stage fills with sophisticated dancers and we are in London at The Ballet Lermontov. We see the immaculately performed ballet both from the front of the stage and the back. Three principal roles in this ballet are danced by Anjali Mehra, Liam Mower and Glenn Graham. Like every member of this company their work is of the highest order.

At a ballet rehearsal there seems to be some commotion about plagiarism with a musical composition.
Young musician Julian, who later emerges as one side of the romance at the centre of the story, feels humiliated. Chris Trenfield gives us both liveliness and sensitivity. This gives Ballet Master Boris Lermontov, time to strut his stuff as one of the baddies in the piece. Sam Archer captures his nastiness completely.

New to the world of dance Victoria has a champion, Lady Neston. Daisy May Kemp is an exemplary aristocrat, she invites the ballet company to a soirée in Covent Garden. She introduces Victoria to Lermontov and she’s on her way. Julian is well put out again.

Soon we are all taken to Monte Carlo; here the humour that often come from Matthew Bourne begins to creep in. Bathing costumes of the time and fun with dance–swimming and beach ball play.

Back at the Monte Carlo Opera House we see a model of the set for the new ballet The Red Shoes. Then we see the Red Shoes Ballet. The look of it is amazing. It is the continuing beautiful stage pictures that surprise and captivate us, enhanced by the vitality of the dance. This is Matthew Bourne and his team at their most wondrous and it is just wonderful to be there.

He also throws in with equal expertise some fan dancers and a hilarious variety act reminiscent of old timers, the late Wilson, Keppel and Betty, though our clever Egyptian dancers did it without the sand. So you get some great laughs but it is the beauty that overwhelms. Watch out for the astonishing ending!

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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