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Credit: Johan Persson00

Credit: Johan Persson

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

Tues 14 Mar

The anticipated Matthew Bourne adaptation of The Red Shoes has arrived. The 1948 film, based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, starred Moira Shearer as the fated ballet dancer. Torn between her passion for ballet and her composer lover Julian Craster, Victoria Page is torn, her red shoes symbolic of her struggle; the shoes cannot be removed, forcing her to dance constantly, moving where they take her.

Matthew Bourne has reimagined The Red Shoes for the stage in a way that only he can. His company New Adventures previously brought to life Carmen (as The Car Man), Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, and have successfully brought many classic tales to new audiences. The original film is highly regarded for its creative use of Technicolor and depth, and as one of my favourite films it was slightly nervewracking waiting for the curtain to rise to see how it would be interpreted.

The opening sequence is breathtaking: the set, the use of light and shade, a solitary dancer emerging from the shadows before we catch sight of the infamous red shoes.  The show has begun. In true Bourne style the energy is frenetic and unique – contemporary to ballet, jazz to tap, it’s all there, quirky movements and expressions that instantly lead the audience on a roller coaster of passion, desire, and loyalty, following a story to its ultimate destination.

The use of the set is ingenious: a revolving theatre curtain frame that allowed the audience to peak into different worlds as they unfold. Stories within a story take us backstage, into Victoria’s bedroom and a seedy burlesque club. The highlight for me are the scenes where the dancers are in a dull black and grey set, with Page in a vibrant red dress spinning across the stage. The contrast is beautiful, the music enveloping and the skill and athleticisms putting me to shame.

You’re guaranteed a unique experience when embarking on a Matthew Bourne show, yet I would rate this as the number one Bourne adaptation to date. As a fan of the original motion picture, this delivers in bucketloads. Sensitive, funny, but at the core a story that tugs on the heartstrings.


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