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REVIEW | Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes | UK Tour

“There is nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes,” wrote Hans Christian Andersen in his fairytale The Red Shoes. Then turned into the hit 1948 movie, multi-award winning choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne OBE used the iconic story as inspiration for his latest production.

Matthew Bourne’s magical adaptation has a timeless feel, as it is set to a sumptuous score arranged by Terry Davies who uses Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful music from the golden-age hollywood era. Performed live by the New Adventures orchestra, the performance is truly brought to life, and lifted immensely by the spectacular music.

Telling the story of a young ballerina, Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw), who joins an established ballet company and becomes the principal dancer in a new ballet titled The Red Shoes. It is a story of heartbreak, possession and love. When Victoria finds herself torn between two men in the company, the tension rises and she finds herself internally struggling.

Ashley Shaw shines as leading lady Victoria, she moves so effortlessly, and her technique and discipline is of the highest standard. Within her mesmerising movement is a portrayal of authentic emotion that will take your breath away. The potency of her desire is almost palpable, as every inch of her body reflects the strength of her feelings.

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The juxtaposition between the two lovers in Victoria’s life is displayed excellently. Sam Archer takes to the stage as the dominant and powerful Boris Lermontov, his movement has a heaviness about it that displays his anguish and force. When he discovers Victoria’s adoration for Julian Craster (Chris Trenfield), his desperation to hold on to her is evident through the magnitude of his passion, as he eagerly pulls and holds her close.

Archer’s approach to the role of Boris Lermontov is a lot more seductive, he moves with Shaw as one, creating slick, dynamic duets. Set in a dreary bedsit in London, Shaw and Archer perform a high-powered and intimate duet that is bursting with intensity. It is an emotive moment that is incredibly raw, showcasing their vigorous emotion.

Despite the turmoil, and the dark, gripping scenes, it is a visually striking production. It is a performance charged with colour, with impressive costume changes and a truly remarkable set. Designed by Lez Brotherston, the staging is a stage within a stage. Throughout the performance we are given glimpses of ‘real life’ and the performance itself. The lavish red curtains with a gold accent move seamlessly across the stage, transitioning between the glamour of the production and the surrounding narrative.

Brotherston’s costumes make the production a spectacle, whether it is the detailing of the extravagant tutus, or the structure of the dark suits in the solemn, dream-like scenes. We are taken across the world with the astounding array of costumes that commendably mirror the era.

Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes is breathtaking and by far his best show to date. It is a grand performance that is created with stunning visuals and engaging emotion, all the theatrical elements are faultless and the multitude of complex styles create an utterly captivating performance.

On at the Lowry until the 3rd of December, tickets can be found here.

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