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The Red Shoes at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 15th Feb 2017 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

The Red Shoes image Johan Persson

image: Johan Persson

Bourne says The Red Shoes is a modern story of ‘obsession and celebrity’ and we see that clearly through the life of a young dancer who makes the wrong choice in choosing ballet stardom before love, a choice which leads to her tragic death. But on the way to her untimely death, Bourne presents the audience with a sumptuous ballet. This stage production is based on The Red Shoes, the 1948 ballet film by Powell and Pressburger, based in turn on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. In the Forties’ film the young dancer, Victoria Page, and the young composer, Julian Craster, are taken on by the tyrannical, yet charismatic, ballet impresario, Lermontov. Victoria has her chance to become a star when the prima ballerina of the company is injured. By then Victoria has fallen in love with Craster, the composer. Jealous Lermontov banishes Craster from the troupe, thus setting the stage for the tragedy.

The Red Shoes Johan Persson

image: Johan Persson

The complexity of Bourne’s Red Shoes is that the ballet is a ballet within a ballet. The ingenious device of designer Lez Brotherson’s moving proscenium arch reveals on-stage and off-stage, beach and bedroom, Covent Garden and Monte Carlo. This allows a voyeuristic view of the ballet troupe and the constant mixing of ‘real life’ and ‘art’, and the incorporation of pastiches of twentieth century ballet and intimate scenes, juxtaposed with the ensemble, give Red Shoes its pace. There are many unforgettable moments such as the glorious scene in the rehearsal room when the stars, jaded Irina (Anjali Mehra) and the outrageously camp Ivan (Liam Mover) go through their number dressed in fur coat and kimono, the joyful ballet on the beach in Villefrance-Sur-Mer, the sand dancers in the  tawdry music hall and the moving solo performance by Victoria (Ashley Shaw) at the end of Act 1 when the red shoes first reveal their evil nature.    

The Red Shoes Johan Persson

image: Johan Persson

The choreography matches the mood of the scenes perfectly. There is real tenderness in the pas-de-deux between Craster (Dominic North) and Victoria; in the trio dances with Lermontov (Sam Archer) the battle for control and emotion is apparent. The atmospheric score by Bernard Hermann with arrangements by Terry Davies reinforces the atmosphere and the incorporation of music from the 1966 film Fahrenheit 451 is sensational. The lighting pervades the stage with shadows and brightness. It is used to great effect when the audience becomes part of the troupe and the lights are on us and, explosively, in the last scene when the audience is blinded by the lights of the train.  Lastly the costumes must be mentioned – a mixture of modern and classical, rich, colourful and beautiful.

There is little to fault in this ballet - the dancing, the music the setting and the lighting are inspired. It is a privilege to see such a polished performance.

The Red Shoes is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 18th February.


Booking fee applies




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