Tuesday 17 December 2019

The Red Shoes - Review

Sadler’s Wells, London


Based on the film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne

Adam Cooper, Stephen Murray, Cordelia Braithwaite

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes returns to Sadler’s Wells three years after it first premiered - and while the score and dance remain exquisite, there is a depth to this ballet that has only matured over time.

This time around, Bernard Herrmann’s score is played live with the ingenious transposition of work from his various movie compositions flowing so seamlessly around Bourne’s creation, that one senses the music could almost have been commissioned for this production.

The movement of course is exquisite in its story of a doomed love triangle that evolves within the Ballet Lermontov. A love blossoms between ballerina Victoria Page and Julian Craster a young composer at the ballet, while throughout Boris Lermontov, the company’s impresario harbours his own lustful desire for Page. Alongside this cocktail of human passion, there is within the tale, The Red Shoes Ballet itself, a Lermontov production that tells of the enchanted/cursed shoes, and the macabre power they can exert over their wearer.

On press night Ashley Shaw played Page, Dominic North, Craster and Adam Cooper, Lermontov with all three impeccable in their bringing to life the tragic romance. As the narrative shifts across Britain and France their dance, and of course the work of their fellow corps of dancers, allows this difficult and disturbing love story to unfold before us. In the 2019 iteration however, the psychology of the story’s underlying emotional complexities is even more vivid than three years ago. Unquestionably dark and yet stunningly portrayed, Bourne captures the gothic horror of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale and imbues it with a believable 20th-century relevance.

Lez Brotherston’s ingenious swivelling proscenium arch remains a masterclass in stage design, as Brett Morris conducts the New Adventures Orchestra with a heart-soaring fluidity. Playing into the new year, The Red Shoes continues to offer an evening of world class entertainment and dance.

Playing at Sadler’s Wells until 19th January 2020, then touring
Photo credit: Johan Persson

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