Taking Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948, Technicolor masterpiece of British cinema, The Red Shoes and turning it into a fully-fledged ballet, sounds like madness, but, in the hands of dance superstar Matthew Bourne, it’s an unmitigated triumph.
Along with young composer Julian Craster (Dominic North), aspiring dance star Vicky Page’s (Ashley Shaw) quiet determination takes her from the chorus line to centre stage when she impresses the Diaghilev-like ballet impresario Boris Lermontov. However, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for when she has to choose between love and her obsession for dance.
As ever in New Adventures work, this cinematic production is replete with tiny detail and humour (the cigarettes dangling from the dancers’ mouths and the principal dancers miming their way through rehearsals are particularly funny). Lez Brotherston’s clever set design, enhanced by Paule Constable’s atmospheric lighting, takes the action seamlessly from the elegant salons of London, to front/back stage of the ballet, the streets of Monte Carlo to a run-down East End music hall. The moving proscenium arch design is particularly clever and sweeps the action along at a break-neck speed.
Terry Davies’ orchestrations of the legendary work of Bernard Herrman (taken from The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Citizen Kane) are faultless and lend the piece the suspense it requires. There’s also clever work from Paul Groothuis, whose sound design amps up the atmosphere in the auditorium.
The dancers are universally outstanding, as ever, and the choreography detailed and utterly absorbing. There’s little more you can say save that this is an outstanding piece of dance theatre – more please.
Images by Johan Persson/Tristram Kenton