The Red Shoes – Birmingham Hippodrome

Director and Choreographer: Matthew Bourne

Reviewer:  Hannah Powell

A fabulous display of strength, grace, power, and emotion – based upon the classic Powell and Pressburger film, The Red Shoes is a fantastic piece of theatre designed to draw in its audience and keep them completely engaged right up to the very end. The dancers make every move look effortless and smooth, captivating the audience and making it impossible to look away for even a second.

Fashioned around the 1948 movie, the story takes a step away from the Hans Christian Andersen original, removing the themes of vanity and religious redemption and creating a piece highlighting art as a life-changing force. It shows dancer Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw), and composer Julian Craster (Chris Trenfield) as they work and find love through their shared artistic success through performances of a ballet – The Red Shoes. However, the dance company’s impresario Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer) is determined to keep them apart as he believes you cannot be a great artist if you become distracted by something as simple as love.

For today’s culture that is borderline obsessed with discovering what is takes to be a ‘star’ through popular TV shows such as X-Factor, this piece really captures the essence of obsession and provides us with a glimpse of what it actually takes to be a dancer and what happens after the curtains close and the performance is over.

The space becomes filled with the music of Bernard Herrmann and provides both the ballets and the backstage life with emotion and rigour. Each score suits each scene perfectly, and tugs gently on the heartstrings of the audience when needed. Ashley Shaw is a beautiful dancer, with lovely precise lines, and a certain grace about her which makes her impossible not to watch. She gives an expressive performance, demonstrating the emotional turmoil her character goes through as she is forced to choose between her love for her craft and her love for Julian. Sam Archer and Chris Trenfield must also be commended on their mesmerising performances, really indicating the animosity that their characters have for each other, you can almost feel the contempt coming off them.

The staging is fantastic, with each location being indicated swiftly and efficiently. Each set is more extravagant than the last with an emphasis on gold, white, and red mixed into each location in sometimes subtle ways. It also provides the audience with extra information about some characters, such as Boris Lermontov’s office being made up of an ornate gold throne, along with a statue of a ballet shoe poised on pointe.

A truly beautiful way to celebrate Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventure’s 30th year anniversary. A mesmerising piece of theatre that even those who either have never seen a ballet or don’t have an interest in ballet or dance would enjoy.

Runs until 11 February 2017 and on tour | Image: Johan Persson

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A truly majestic piece full of raw emotion

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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