The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells
Adapted from Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 film, Matthew Bourne’s twice-Olivier-award-winning The Red Shoes at Saddler’s Wells is magnificent. A tale about amorous longing, passion, ambition and conflict is brought to life with a fascinating narrative, brilliant choreography, enthralling performances, a gorgeous, evocative set and an outstanding musical score.
The show follows the story of Victoria Page (Cordelia Braithwaite), whose dreams of dance stardom are complicated by a fervid romantic triangle, leading to heartbreak and tragedy. A tumultuous struggle between her art and love, her undoing ensues as she is forced to choose between her two suitors.
Victoria begins as a young hopeful in competition with composer Julian Craster (Dominic North) for the attention of impresario Boris Lermontov (Adam Cooper), who becomes enamoured by her. The protagonist obtains her pivotal chance for stardom when a prima ballerina twists her ankle, however rather than replacing her, she is offered a pair of red dancing shoes by Lermontov, and stars in a new ballet, The Red Shoes. As they both become successful, Victoria and Julian’s rivalry turns to love, but is imperiled by the intense jealousy of their mentor. Cast out, the two must now survive by working in a music hall, he on piano, she as a cabaret sideshow act. But Victoria’s ambition seals the trajectory of her unhappy fate.
Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Red Shoes – the original inspiration for the film – is about a dancer donning red shoes who cannot stop dancing, an apt metaphor for the compulsive, sacrificial, all-encompassing artistic obsession of Bourne’s heroine.
Braithwaite’s beautiful performance is poignantly gripping and technically superb, and Cooper and North are faultless, the three expressing the intensity of their relationships via heart-wrenchingly gorgeous pas de deux and pas de trois. The powerful, vivid and remarkable set by Lez Brotherston is an essential element of the show’s success, and New Adventures Orchestra’s rendition of composer Bernard Herrmann’s soulfully romantic music adds intriguing, beguiling atmosphere to the piece.
Dramatic, sad and moving, while also magical, charming and witty; Bourne’s exquisite The Red Shoes is a dazzling, triumphant masterpiece.
Photos: Johan Persson
The Red Shoes is at Sadler’s Wells from 3rd December until 19th January 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.