Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – until 25 March 2017
Guest reviewer: Soraya Scrivener
This exhilarating adaptation by Sir Matthew Bourne OBE is based on the Academy Award winning 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes, which is renowned for its Technicolour cinematography. Set in London and the French Riviera in the late 1940’s, it tells the tale of Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw), a ballerina who becomes the lead in a new touring ballet called ‘The Red Shoes’. Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, this ballet-within-a-ballet tells of possessed shoes which will not permit the wearer to stop dancing. Victoria is torn between her obsession and passion for dance and her lover, the composer Julian Craster (Chris Trenfield). Both discovered by the mesmerizing yet domineering director Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer).
Far superior to the original film score this production uses a variety of dramatic film music by Oscar-winning Bernard Herrman (1911-1975). Bourne has been reunited with his regular collaborators and wow what a team they make. There wasn’t one move, note, set or costume that I would wish them to change. Terry Davies has re-orchestrated the music beautifully, highlighting the emotion of each scene. I am not normally a fan of recorded music but the New Adventures Orchestra have done a sterling job. Such a treat to hear a large orchestra without the price tag. When you see the technically challenging set you’ll understand how much safer and practical this is where the timing is so integral to the piece.
Lez Brotherston has designed dazzling sets and costumes, most impressive being the magnificent proscenium arch. From beginning to end it dances around the stage, twisting effortlessly, rotating to transform the action from front to backstage and everything in between. In the Q&A session after the show we learned that the company had the set from the beginning to rehearse with. Well just a mere 6 weeks to put the show together. Remarkable!
The New Adventures’ company immersed themselves in the era, perfecting the different dance styles of the 40’s with the usual Bourne flair. These are stunning dancers and superb actors with a wonderful energy. As an audience, we were entertained with fantastic facial expressions, amused by scenes such as the Riviera beach scene of swimmers and beach balls and touched by the emotion of the main character’s turmoil.
Shaw, Trenfield and Archer are perfectly cast. Their trio was truly outstanding as was Shaw throughout. I particularly enjoyed the lovers duet which was breath-taking to the last note. I was mesmerised by each of their spectacular solos which were full of passion and torment.
I must also mention Anjali Mehra for her amusing ballerina diva, Irina Boronskaja and to Glenn Graham who made a splendid Grischa Ljubov, ballet master, choreographer and character artist. His dance with the red shoes was particularly hypnotic. A notable comedic highlight were the 2 music hall sand men whose duet was so perfectly in sync. I only hope they will forgive me as I cannot name them. Perhaps the character’s names could have been listed by each scene in the program as it is sometimes difficult (for me anyway) to work out who’s who from their headshots.