Opera & BalletTheatre

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at the Liverpool Empire Review

25-29 February 2020

Reviewed by Jan Mellor

For those who follow WGTD reviews you may see that I have reviewed this show previously – and you would be right – you see I cannot get enough of the magnificent Mathew Bourne productions and could watch them night after night, as every time I see something even more wonderful, notice a change in costume I missed before, hear something additional in the music and fall madly in love with the dancing, scenery, costumes and sentiment time and time again.

For those that have never seen a Matthew Bourne production, and more specifically The Red Shoes (although all are amazing), you really should. Some people may be put off thinking it’s a traditional ballet, some may think it’s not for them – too highbrow and stuffy and these people you couldn’t be more wrong. Some of you may be familiar with the original big screen version of the story of the ballet dancer who wears cursed red ballet shoes that traps her into constant dancing and a tormented world that leads her to exhaustion but the version of this story is as far away from the outdated movie as hamburger is to prime fillet steak – it is a masterpiece. I sat alone (my better half won’t go to ballets!) embracing the haunting music of Bernard Herrmann as it filled my soul and my very being. The music was incredible, and I had tears rolling down my cheeks before the first act had finished. 

The performance opens with a stern man in his tails greeting the audience soberly and soon the entrancing vision of the ballerinas erupts on stage dragging us all, so willingly, into the fantasy world of romance, beauty and alluring passion that oozes from every member of this awesome cast. As always, the magnificent stage and curtains prop was for me the focal point of the stage and it is mesmerising how we were taken from the front of the stage to backstage with an effortless flick of a switch.  

Yes, I was (within seconds) sucked in again!

The story of ambition, obsession, possession and cruelty is performed fervently, engulfing us all in the astounding score of Bernard Herrman. We were transported to London, Paris and Monte Carlo, to Covent Garden – an opera house, a music hall and finally in front of a massive locomotive – leaving us all silenced and hypnotised’. Yes, it was magical.

This story of the golden age of Hollywood as one girl (Victoria Page – played sublimely by Ashley Shaw) who dreams of being the greatest dancer of all and how through this obsession is thrust into the arms of her equally obsessed ballet impresario Boris Lermontov – (played by the superb Reece Causton), who originally obsessed with the art soon becomes obsessed with the dancer. Throughout the story of tragedy, determination, love and desire lies the wonderful dancer who although in love with the composer Julian Craster (lovingly played by Dominic North) cannot give herself to him as she does to the dance, especially the dance whilst wearing the possessed red shoes.

We know it will end in tragedy. All wonderful love stories do. The choreography, set and score throughout the performance were superb – praise needs to go to Matthew Bourne (artistic director), Lez Brotherston (set and costume designer – gosh they were amazing) and (Paule Constable) lighting designer – I could list all the crew in my list as I appreciate how much work each and every person must have contributed to this show to make it look like such an effortless masterpiece.

As I travelled home following the performance, I sat on the train home with someone who was a novice to Matthew Bourne’s work, she like me was breathless and stunned by the show she had just witnessed and summed the performance up so eloquently – “it was like a fairy-tale come alive before my very eyes. The beach scene was so wonderful – I loved that – it was an absolute dream!”

I couldn’t put it better myself. Go and take the risk and see something you prejudge as being “not your thing” – you never know, you may be pleasantly surprised. One day you may even see my other half there sitting with me – as yes, I will be seeing this again – with tears down his face and his heart a flutter.

It’s just a joy to experience – you will love it. The set is phenomenal, the costumes amazing, the musical hauntingly magnificent and the dancers are unreal – such talent.

Truly a work of art – an unbelievable performance! One of the most magnificent performance on stage you will ever see!

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at the Liverpool Empire from 25-29 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/liverpool or call the box office on 0844 8713017.

Liverpool Empire, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017

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