Our student guest reviewers Ashton Hall and Sofie Parsons went to see Matthew Bourne’s ‘ The Red Shoes’


Matthew Bourne always merges the theatrical and classical world in a modern twist beautifully and The Red Shoes manifested no differently. His newest work, only 103 performances into its year long run, contained all the elaboration expected in Bourne’s choreography.

I am always seeing the New Adventures productions as I am not only astounded by the quality of movement and dance, but the quality of the theatrical acting and characterisation of the individuals. Matthew Bourne has made no exception in his latest piece, The Red Shoes. From beginning to end, the audience are captivated and drawn into this realistic world that Bourne creates. For me, Dominic North who played Julian Craster, was a stand out performer in this particular area. During the struggling composers’ solo, he portrayed his character and the emotions that went along with this superbly. Dominic has an exceptional talent within dance and is able to reflect the true sentiments of his character through this medium.

Produced by Terry Davies and the original music composed by Bernard Herrmann, played a major part in this beautifully written piece of theatre. As with most ballets around the world, the soft and classical undertones were present and as soon as the performance began it was easy to understand the classical orchestra. However, Herrmann has a more unorthodox approach generally. He uses ‘insistent rhythms of the strings’ giving the classical music more of an unsettling edge. Terry Davies insisted that the piano should be held off at certain points in order to really hear the playful instruments (or toys, as they are sometimes described as) such as the triangle, cowbell and the referees whistle. The reasoning behind this is to highlight the individual musical characters within the sequence played. All of this is certainly present throughout the performance and definitely impacts the overall quality of the show positively.

Very rarely, if ever, do we see a Matthew Bourne production with very little and minimalistic set. However, to begin with, we were presented with a very stripped back stage. Only a large rotating proscenium arch was presented to the audience. This part of the staging was particularly fascinating. The arch would travel around the stage to create new settings and spaces. It was able to change the area in which the performance was taking place entirely. Very rarely do we see staging this advanced, even in a modern ballet. It was very impressive and worked fantastically. As the performance progressed and we were transported to and from 1940’s London and the French Riviera, more set and props were added giving the stage a very immersive and naturalistic experience. This helps portray the classical story brilliantly whilst giving it a modern and contemporary twist.

The costumes of beautiful velvet and lace created a visually pleasing experience. Victoria Page played by Cordelia Braithwaite was adorned throughout in period garments which flourished her elegancy and suited her character. No doubt one of the most magnificent costumes was Victoria Page’s red and white romantic tutu. She wears this in The Red Shoes Ballet and we see it both in its original and dishevelled state; both look incredible and depict the characters storyline vividly. The luxurious nature of the set and costumes made for a spectacular facade which the audience were enthralled by. Lez Brotherston’s engaging designs left everyone content.

The storyline brings us an in depth view of Victoria Page’s ongoing struggle with reality and changes between life in the Lermontov ballet company and her real life. Therefore I believe, at times, a younger audience would struggle to understand the plot. Saying this, if any audience member wasn’t certain on the storyline, I feel certain sections would be difficult to understand. This is definitely not a negative point however! I feel the interluding sections would be the areas that would throw certain audience members off. But by following the main phrases, the story telling is fantastic and brilliantly written through movement, making the overall story very easy to follow.

As usual Bourne created a world of fantasy which could be endured for two hours without thinking about the outside realities of the world; we were treated into being transported into a realm of drama and magic. The Red Shoes brought New Adventures into its 30th year celebrations in fantastic style, an ode to love of theatre and dance, the piece is constantly proving itself popular with every show sold out and constant standing ovations.

Ashton Hall and Sofie Parsons