Home » London Theatre Reviews » Review of Matthew Bourne’s THE RED SHOES – Sadler’s Wells

Review of Matthew Bourne’s THE RED SHOES – Sadler’s Wells

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page'.
THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw ‘Victoria Page’. Photo by Johan Persson

Occasionally a show is so overwhelming in its awesomeness that I have real trouble translating my thoughts and feelings about it into words on a screen. Just such a show is Matthew Bourne’s new production The Red Shoes which is firmly ensconced for the Christmas period at Sadler’s Wells.

Based on the cult movie of the same name by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and using music by acclaimed composer Bernard Herrman, arranged by Terry Davies, The Red Shoes tells the story of Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw) a ballet dancer who is discovered by Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer) and becomes a member of his touring ballet group. As well as Victoria, Lermontov also discovers composer Julian Craster (Dominic North). Lermontov is a hard taskmaster who believes the only thing his dancers should have an interest in is ballet – everything else is secondary and must not be allowed to interrupt a dancer’s dedication to the dance. Julian writes a new ballet around the Hans Christian Andersen story The Red Shoes with Victoria in the lead role. The ballet is an instant hit and as the curtain comes down, Lermontov realises that Victoria and Julian have become more than just colleagues. How will Lermontov react to this unexpected and, to his mind, highly unwelcome turn of events and can Victoria find a way to satisfy the two men in her life?

Before going to The Red Shoes, I was concerned that maybe The Red Shoes would not live up to the very high expectations I had in my head. So, let’s start with a simple statement about The Red Shoes – Matthew Bourne has done it again!!! As anyone that knows me, or has read some of my reviews knows, I really like Matthew’s work and, until last night, The Car Man was my absolute favourite but I have to say I now have a new favourite. This show is perfect from start to its absolutely amazing ending.

Let’s break things down a bit here. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the film – I saw it once about 10 years ago and barely remembered it – as the choreography makes the narrative really easy to follow. Rather like the movie, the show includes a stand-alone ballet within it and it sits perfectly in as part of the overall story. The music, which has mainly been taken from the fabulous back catalogue of Bernard Herrman, is often familiar and always feels appropriate to the action of the dancers.

I’m also going to mention here Lez Brotherston who has designed probably the most amazing set I’ve ever seen for a dance production. Based around a highly moveable proscenium arch and stage curtains, it transforms from front of stage to backstage to beach at Monte Carlo to a wonderful period when it is both a hovel and a sumptuous bedroom and so many other locations. Added to the set are the sumptuous costumes which look absolutely stunning and are totally appropriate for the time when the show is set.

Moving to the dancers and, as with all dance productions, there are different combinations of dancers that perform each night. In the synopsis above, I have named those that were at the performance I saw but, having seen much of Matthew’s work, I know that every cast will be equally as fantastic as the one I saw. My attention was held by the superb dancing of the entire cast. There was a surprising amount of humour – keep an eye out for Lady Neston (Daisy May Kemp) and her guests’ expressions at the soiree – and some wonderfully emotional moments between the three leads.

The real problem I’ve encountered in writing this review is trying to get my thoughts about The Red Shoes down in words. During the interval, I was talking with another reviewer and I couldn’t stop myself smiling and going over every nuance of the first half. At the end, I was actually shaking with emotion as I had been so wrapped up in the story and, very unusual for me, I was one of the first to rise to my feet as the cast took their bows. The buzz outside the theatre was palpable and all the comments I could hear were so positive. I can only agree with those comments, and add one more of my own. Now Matthew Bourne and his team have created The Red Shoes it can never be un-created and years from now I believe that dance companies will still be performing the show and receive the same plaudits we are giving it now.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Based on the film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Music by Bernard Herrmann.

A beloved fairy tale and Academy Award-winning movie, The Red Shoes has seduced audiences and inspired generations of dancers with its tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Victoria Page lives to dance but her ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion.

Matthew Bourne’s magical adaptation is set to a new score arranged by Terry Davies using the mesmerising music of golden-age Hollywood composer, Bernard Herrmann (most famous for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles) and played live by the New Adventures Orchestra, with sumptuous set and costume designs by Lez Brotherston, Paule Constable (lighting) and Paul Groothuis (sound).

An intoxicating drama where life imitates art with fateful consequences; The Red Shoes will dazzle your senses and break your heart.

TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER 2016 – SUNDAY 29 JANUARY 2017
Matthew Bourne The Red Shoes Tickets at Sadler’s Wells
The Red Shoes is sold out for all Sadler’s Wells performances, but keep checking here for occasional returns.
http://www.sadlerswells.com/

TUESDAY 31 JANUARY – SATURDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2017
NEW VICTORIA THEATRE, WOKING
www.londontheatre1.com/theatres/new-victoria-theatre/
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY – SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2017
THE HIPPODROME, BIRMINGHAM
www.birminghamhippodrome.com
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 14 FEBRUARY – SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2017
MILTON KEYNES THEATRE, MILTON KEYNES
www.londontheatre1.com/theatres/milton-keynes-theatre/
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 21 FEBRUARY – SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2017
THEATRE ROYAL, NORWICH
www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
ON SALE AUGUST 2016

TUESDAY 7 MARCH – SATURDAY 11 MARCH 2017
THEATRE ROYAL, NOTTINGHAM
www.trch.co.uk
ON SALE 13 APRIL 2016

TUESDAY 14 MARCH – SATURDAY 18 MARCH 2017
WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, CARDIFF
www.wmc.org.uk
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 21 MARCH – SATURDAY 25 MARCH 2017
THE MAYFLOWER, SOUTHAMPTON
www.mayflower.org.uk
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 28 MARCH – SATURDAY 1 APRIL 2017
THE ALHAMBRA THEATRE, BRADFORD
www.bradford-theatres.co.uk
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 4 APRIL – SATURDAY 9 APRIL 2017
THE HIPPODROME THEATRE, BRISTOL
www.londontheatre1.com/theatres/bristol-hippodrome-theatre/
ON SALE SOON

TUESDAY 11 APRIL – SATURDAY 15 APRIL 2017
NEW WIMBLEDON THEATRE, WIMBLEDON
www.londontheatre1.com/theatres/new-wimbledon-theatre/
ON SALE SOON

FURTHER DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED

Author

Scroll to Top