Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Red Shoes by Matthew Bourne World Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae

I've been fascinated by Matthew Bourne's work for years and completely fell in love with his choreography after watching his production of 'Sleeping Beauty' a while back. I've also witnessed his fantastic work in hit musicals 'Oliver!' and 'Mary Poppins' which I adored too. So to hear that his latest production of The Red Shoes would be premiering at my hometown theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, I was ecstatic!

Last night I attended the opening performance of this new show at Theatre Royal Plymouth. The house was buzzing and for the first time in a while it was completely sold out which was absolutely lovely to see. 

The Red Shoes brings the Powell and Pressburger's 1948 film and Hans Christian Anderson story to stage. The show, much like the film, employs a story within a story device, and tells the tale of a young ballerina, Victoria Page, who joins an established ballet company, leading their new ballet called The Red Shoes. She and the struggling composer, Julian Craster, fall in love but is overshadowed by Boris Lermontov, the ballet impresario who also catches feelings for Victoria and controls their relationship and careers. The red ballet shoes are a motif of control, as once they are put on they will not allow the wearer to stop dancing and similarly off stage, they control Victoria's urge and desire to dance. It tells a story of the extremes an artist will fight for their work: with the composer's intense descent into some sort of madness to achieve perfection, the developing evil of the impresario and ultimately what leads to Victoria's tragic and melodramatic death. 

Its an utterly intense and gripping story that is conveyed through Bourne's choreography beautifully. I find that in some dance shows, its easy to lose the plot but this story was clear and easy to follow, even with the complex 'story within a story' structure that is so well executed by Lez Brotherston, associate designer who depicted onstage and backstage in different locations seamlessly.  

The set and staging was breathtaking. It has transformed the Theatre Royal Plymouth's Lyric stage into a glorious grand, vintage theatre with impressive red velvet curtains which revolve to depict onstage and offstage. Projections are used well to portray the array of locations in the show, from Monte Carlo to Covent Garden. My favourite use of projections was during The Red Shoes ballet at the end of Act 1: silhouettes of almost Tim Burton-esque trees and houses as well as movement of wind projected onto a massive blank canvas acted as a backdrop to the chilling story. 

Matthew Bourne decided against using the Oscar award- winning score from the 1948 film but instead chose the music of celebrated Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. Throughout the performance, extracts of Herrmann's film scores and concert music is used. The Currier and Ives Suite from 1935 provides perfect waltz music as well as Concerto Macabre from Hangover Square of 1945 and The Ghost and Mrs Muir. The orchestrations are powerful, beautiful and accompany the dance routines perfectly. 

The costumes are just as dazzling, with impressive traditional ballet tutus onstage (which I am obsessed with!) as well as contemporary 40s/50s fashions incorporated for the backstage segments of the show. They act as a real asset to the performance as they gracefully move with the dancers which add an extra impressive visual element to the spectacle. 

The performers were incredible. Although I think it took them a couple routines to fully warm up on opening night, they soon presented Bourne's choreography in the most impressive, beautiful and synchronized way. The routines are totally complex and the performers were completely mesmerising to watch. 

Overall, I really adored this new production of The Red Shoes. It is Matthew Bourne's ability to present such an engaging, clear story, humour and intense emotion through the power of dance that makes it what it is. The design was spectacular and the talent onstage was very impressive. It definitely deserved the standing ovation it received! I would totally recommend. 

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. 


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