Matthew Bourne’s ‘The Red Shoes’ is a theatrical delight

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page' and Sam Archer 'Boris Lermontov'. Photo by Johan Persson

With Christmas lights strung across London making the capital twinkle on a cold winter’s night, the festive spirit was in full swing as the curtain raised on Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. From the very first moment we’re promised a theatrical delight and Bourne delivers with an uplifting show that entertains with dazzling costumes, stunning sets, fabulous dance scenes, hilarious characters and great acting as he reimagines the story of a ballerina torn between her love of dance and her love of her composer.

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page' and Dominic North 'Julian Craster'. Photo by Johan Persson
Ashley Shaw ‘Victoria Page’ and Dominic North ‘Julian Craster’. Photo by Johan Persson

The Red Shoes absolutely wows the audience as we are taken back stage and into the life of the young ballerina who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to become the star of the show, after the older and revered prima ballerina is suddenly injured. The opening scenes are filled with dancers in jewel coloured long tulle tutus, a dramatic performance by the dance diva and quintessential Bourne quirky 1940s inspired choreography, which creates the feeling of one joyous waltz. Bourne’s ability to create bold scenes is matched by how much dance he pours into each moment; with the incredible sets enhancing the performances and highlighting the important moments – what can be done with a simple curtain and stage lights is impressive. The constant movement, the endless flow of characters of enormous charm and dancers of satisfying abilities, set to music that makes the heart sing, really does take you away.

THE RED SHOES. Sam Archer 'Boris Lermontov' and The Company. Photo by Johan Persson
Sam Archer ‘Boris Lermontov’ and The Company. Photo by Johan Persson

And while it’s the lead characters that we follow through this love story, its the company scenes that steal our heart – like the ballet class with some funny plays on the ballet master, the observing investor, and the stand out performance of the company’s camp star that makes the audience rapturously applaud. The swift transitions of the company on tour injects some more interesting dance elements that shows off the versatility of Bourne’s dancers, as we’re rewarded with multiple location and costume changes that keeps the tempo as high as the drama.

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

But drama it is, with exaggerated dance theatre at its core, Bourne adds layers upon layers of wonderful solos, rich duets and dynamic corps performances of his trademark mix of contemporary and classical moves. There’s something for everyone, from the dedicated dancer lover to Strictly fan. And while the story of the red shoes is told, and the ballerina is torn from her love and drawn to irresistible pull of her ruby pointe shoes, we fall head over heals in love with the entire cast, especially the Egyptian duo who made us laugh so hard with their hilarious spot that almost stole the show!

THE RED SHOES. Michela Meazza 'Irina Boronskaja', Liam Mower 'Ivan Boleslawsky' and company. Photo by Johan Persson
Michela Meazza ‘Irina Boronskaja’, Liam Mower ‘Ivan Boleslawsky’ and company. Photo by Johan Persson

I always take a non-ballet fan to see Matthew Bourne as the litmus test for each show and The Red Shoes impressed the socks of my friend who literally danced out of Sadler’s Wells theatre even though the rain soaked the streets. This is a production that makes you smile, and is deserving of the standing ovation from the happy and appreciative audience.

THE RED SHOES. Liam Mower 'Ivan Boleslawsky'. Photo by Johan Persson
Liam Mower ‘Ivan Boleslawsky’. Photo by Johan Persson

Reviewed 12 December 2019 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.