Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes is back and has been hailed by all the critics as being even better than before. Adam Cooper joins the company for this revival and Ashley Shaw is Victoria Page, the award-winning role she created. Dasa Wharton took her camera to capture the 2019 opening.
Ashley Shaw gave a sensational reminder of why her portrayal of Victoria Page won the National Dance Award for Outstanding Female Performance, back in 2016. It is a role of considerable depth, not only through the tortured journey of an ambitious young ballerina but also in the ballets that she performs. Page is the centre of a strange love triangle, caught between the composer, Julian Craster, and her impresario boss, Boris Lermontov. Craster loves her as a woman; Lermontov as his star creation. There are obvious parallels with the proprietorial relationship of Diaghilev with Nijinsky and its disintegration following the latter's shock marriage to Romola de Pulszky (indeed, the film producer, Alexander Korda, originally conceived a biopic about Nijinsky, the failure of which led circuitously to The Red Shoes). The film role was, of course, owned by Moira Shearer and Shaw accomplishes both a palpable sense of Shearer's vital force and a charismatic representation of her ballet style. – Graham Watts, Dance Tabs
The sight of Vicky staggering backwards, en pointe, into the path of a train that comes crashing through the scenery, is just one of several compelling moments in this supremely theatrical work, which is indeed about theatre itself. Lez Brotherston's typically brilliant set centres upon a giant proscenium arch. Snatches of ballet – droll Forties pastiches featuring a stately old-style prima ballerina (the excellent Michela Meazza) – appear before the curtained shape, which then revolves to reveal an audience (“reality”) and bows out altogether to show another reality, the company at the barre in their perfectly-period headbands and leotards. All this is a wonderful piece of choreography in itself. – Laura Thompson, The Telegraph
Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes is a love letter to more than one art form. Based on the 1948 Powell and Pressburger film, Bourne's danced production is a gorgeous swirl of storytelling and style. In its first revival, the show is even sharper than before – and now it has Adam Cooper, original star of Bourne's groundbreaking Swan Lake with male swans, as the impresario Boris Lermontov.
The movie created a generation of ballet-lovers, and was smitten with the possibilities of film as well as dance. Bourne's version adds a passion for theatre to this story of a ballerina torn between the demands of love and art. – Zoë Anderson, The Independent
There's an exchange early on in The Red Shoes, the greatest of all ballet films, that cuts to the movie's heart. “Why do you want to dance?” Boris Lermontov, the Diaghilev-esque Svengali asks aspiring ballerina Victoria Page. Her reply? “Why do you want to live?”
Matthew Bourne's reimagining, created in 2016 and now back at Sadler's Wells for a lengthy Christmas run, is a faithful retelling of Powell and Pressburger's 1948 masterpiece with one difference: it's a ballet about film, rather than a film about ballet. Bourne's greatest achievement is making this two-hour ballet not only theatrical, but downright cinematic. – Emma Byrne, The Standard
Ambition, passion, jealousy, obsession and despair — all fine ingredients for a classic melodrama and Bourne mines them well, along with a dollop of subtle comedy. He's helped by the score, an orchestration by Terry Davies of film music (including from Citizen Kane and Fahrenheit 451) by Bernard Herrmann. Lush and saturated, dripping with suspense and played live by the New Adventures orchestra, it's perfect for the subject matter. – Debra Craine, The Times
All the things I love best about Matthew Bourne's award-winning adaptation of the film into a two-act narrative dance work, first seen in 2016, precisely catch this enchantment. He's brilliant at evoking the lure of the empty theatre, the magic hanging in the air when the audience have left and the performers are going about their tasks. There's a scene early on where the company's ageing prima ballerina (wonderful Michela Meazza) stalks the stage, making the follow spot track the sylphide's dress she is holding, sticking out an arm or a leg to show the movements she will be performing, wafting its fairy wings.
It's funny but also revealing; it shows just how much work goes into an apparently effortless act. It also demonstrates how deeply Bourne is in love with dance. Every step in this imaginative and affecting narrative is etched with his knowledge and passion. Each parody of different types of ballet is acutely crafted. The ballet within the ballet, which tells Hans Christian Andersen's original story of the red shoes dancing a peasant girl to death, is a modernist triumph. – Sarah Crompton, The Guardian
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.