The Red Shoes: Theatre review by Hannah Richardson
Lovers of Matthew Bourne’s ballets will doubtless already have their tickets for his latest production, The Red Shoes.
The world premiere of the show is now touring the country, after opening at Sadler’s Wells in December, and is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday.
Based on the film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the show is set around a ballet company’s production of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Red Shoes.
The divine Ashley Page, who was seen last year as Aurora in Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, plays a young dancer, Vicky Page, who is catapulted into the leading role when the prima ballerina sprains her ankle.
Vicky falls in love with struggling composer Julian Craster, but this puts her into conflict with her director, the impresario Boris Lermontov.
Given an ultimatum to choose between love and dance, Vicky leaves the company with Julian, and is next seen prostituting her talent on stage in a hilariously seedy and grotesque old-time London music hall.
Vicky is torn between love and the desire to dance, and so the show moves on to its tragic conclusion.
From the opening scene of the show, Ashley Page is absolutely captivating. Her grace and lightness of touch are simply breathtaking.
Dancing the leading role in certain performances will be Leighton Buzzard’s Cordelia Braithwaite, who attended Laine Theatre Arts, and Katrina Lyndon.
Sam Archer, who created the title role of Edward Scissorhands in 2005 and has starred in Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, The Car Man and Play Without Words, played the iconic role of Lermentov.
And Dominic North, who was this year nominated for his second National Dance Award, played Julian Craster with athleticism and grace. His love duet with Vicky on the Monte Carlo seafront was outstanding for its beauty and lyicism.
But this was very much a whole-company show, and there was an absolute wealth of dancing talent on the stage, the entire cast performing with seemingly effortless energy and control, including some amazing lifts.
Some of the most beautiful and moving scenes were those of the ballet within a ballet, as Vicky dances the role of a young woman condemned by her passion for dancing to dance herself to death.
The ensemble use their bodies with sinister effect to portray the fierce storm that buffets her and her lover and tears them apart.
Spine-tingling though that scene is, there are also moments of humourous delight, such as the ballet rehearsal and the Monte Carlo beach scene, complete with beachballs. Not to mention that wonderfully appalling old-time music hall, with Wilson and Keppel-style Sand Dance.
If you love top-quality dancing, this is a show not to miss.
To check for ticket availability, see www.atgtickets.com/Miiltonkeynes or call 0844 871 7652.
If you missed it in Milton Keynes, The Red Shoes is coming to the Wycombe Swan in June.