Reviewed by Jayne Wiggins
Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes is an energetic, exciting sensory feast! With a set design mastering both film and stage histories, a frantic storyline and traditional dance style throughout, this had my heart racing and me sat on the edge of my seat waiting for every minute! My son joined me and wanted to see performance and elegance, boy did he see that.
The musical score gives this ballet the drama urgency the story needs.
This contemporary ballet is based on a film telling the story of a ballet company, love and art, based on a fairy tale based on Christian virtues and remorse. If that is not enough to confuse you before it even starts then your senses might not light up as much as mine! Cordelia Braithwaite plays a rising ballet star – Victoria Page – eager to enhance her career by joining the touring ballet company The Ballet Lermontov. The company is run by the Impresario Boris Lermontov (Glenn Graham) – a difficult to impress artistic master, revered by his peers and both worshipped and feared by his dancers. His artistic eye and obsession with detail soon notices the talented Victoria, and a chance accident pulls Victoria into the Prima Ballerina role when her counterpart breaks her ankle.
The story shows the genuine love of the performing art of ballet and dance, the determination, the commitment, the sacrifices made to be the best. As struggling composer Julian Craster (Dominic North) falls in love with Victoria, she is soon torn between her love for a man and her love for her art. The red shoes are symbolic of temptation as well as forming the story for the touring Ballet Lermontov. As the character agrees to wear the read shoes, the audience are reminded of the fairy tale, dream sequences of many a ballet as Victoria first imagines herself dancing with her lover Julian, to eventually forgetting him as she follows folly and temptation. Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale isn’t too difficult to translate to a modern audience with our ever growing dependence on technology and the temptations it offers, often overshadowing love and life. The reference to the love of the arts is as easily recognisable as our modern world strives to teach our young people to follow their dreams as they can ‘have it all’. In this ballet, Victoria realises far too late that you can’t ‘have it all’. The lure of the arts, like the lure of her character’s red shoes, would eventually kill Victoria and it would be too late by the time she realised her mistake.
A frantic ballet, with a 17 minute dance piece which reduced me to tears, a storyline which is both confusing, totally relevant, ancient and modern and a cast with skill, elegance and beauty. The music score is traditional and modern, vibrant and exciting. In all, a beautiful night out, a ballet to suit all ages with a relevance to suit artists and lovers of all varieties.
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 28 January to 1 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ