MATTHEW Bourne’s newest creation, a dance adaptation of the Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes, itself inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, is a triumph.
The message of the story is that Art is the greatest force, more important than love and human relationships and, literally, to die for.
Set in the world of dance, it is the perfect subject for Bourne’s New Adventures company, giving him free rein (or should that be reign) with a group of people he has known throughout his working life. It allows his unique mix of wit, sex, romance and high drama, set, as always, by Lez Brotherston, to delight our senses.
Although Sir Matthew is best known for his sensational Swan Lake with its male corps de ballet, The Red Shoes is already being heralded as his greatest creation to date.
The production also uses the music of Bernard Herrman to underpin the action.
The elegant and all-powerful Lermontov is THE man to impress, and when young dancer Vicky Page comes to London, it’s his dismissal that hurts. Later, in Paris, she catches his eye, and he casts her in his new ballet, in which the devil offers a young dancer a pair of red shoes – the ability to dance in exchange for her soul.
But while Lermontov invests his time and attention in rising star Vicky, she falls in love with the anxious composer Julian. Her inability to devote herself entirely to The Dance infuriates Lermontov, who sacks both her and Julian.
One of Matthew Bourne’s great strengths is his ability to tell stories urgently and clearly, without words and without the need to interpret classical ballet’s sometimes obscure language.
This Red Shoes is a show for anyone who loves dance, theatre, spectacle and romance. Magnificently costumed, peopled with often hilariously recognisable characters and reaching a thrilling conclusion, it undoubtedly challenges Swan Lake in the Bourne hit list.
The opening night audience at Southampton saw the amazing Ashley Shaw, who created the role of Vicky, dancing with Sam Archer as Lermontov and Chris Trenfield as Julian.
Glenn Graham proved his versatility as the hysterically funny ballet master and the devilish Ljubov in the new ballet, with Liam Mower as an archetypal leading man.
As always in Bourne’s productions, (here aided by long time collaborator Etta Murfitt) every detail is lovingly crafted, so that it is possible to watch one member of the “corps” company and follow his or her story throughout the show.
It is an absolute joy, full of excitement, brilliant dancing and characterisation, colour and spectacle.
See it at the Mayflower until Saturday 25th March, and also at Bristol Hippodrome from 4th to 8th April.