Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes

May 11 2017 | By More

★★★★☆   Modern elegance

Festival Theatre: Tue 9 – Sat 13 May 2017
New Æ reviewer Caitlin Powell with a second take on Matthew Bourne’s touring hit.

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, on national tour and at the Festival Theatre all week, is an exquisite celebration of classical ballet with Bourne’s typical modern twist.

Based on the 1948 film by Powell and Pressburger, the ballet is the story of ambitious ballerina Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw) as she rises to fame in the company owned by ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer). But her love for composer, Julian Craster (Dominic North) can only have tragic consequences.

Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page and Sam Archer as Boris Lermontov. Pic Johan Persson

Bourne’s production is, itself, an example of excellence in ballet. The dancer’s lines are elegant and Shaw seems to glide across the stage when en pointe, effortlessly moving from arabesque to arabesque.

The pas de deux between Archer and Shaw as Lermontov trains Page is stunning with Archer’s gestures mirroring the full movements performed by Shaw. Such a subtle effect highlights Lermontov’s control over Page that only grows as the ballet goes on.

Dominic North’s solo, depicting Julian Craster’s ache to conduct, is powerful with lines that Bourne has clearly taken from the gestures of a conductor.

technical beauty

Every step, every arch and every turn has a purpose. However, the choreography does not only possess technical beauty, but is also undeniably witty.

Dominic North as Julian Craster in The Red Shoes. Pic Johan Persson copy

The duet in which Lermontov’s prima ballerina Irina Boronskaja (Anjali Mehra) and his premier danseur Ivan Boleslawsky (Liam Mower) mark out their dance without fully completing any of the choreography is deeply amusing. The diva-like lead dancers put on airs and graces which add humour to what would usually be a simple walk-through.

At times, Bourne appears to strive too eagerly towards humour. His use of large beach balls causing a few timing issues in the generally pretty Monte Carlo scene where timing is clearly of the essence as partners perform dances based on synchronised swimming.

Modern dance styles – such as jive and contemporary – are tightly knit with the classical ballet, revitalising a much loved piece. Yet, during the performance of the ballet of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Red Shoes’, the aesthetic of almost Gothic silhouettes projected on the set contrasts with the bustling modern ‘businessmen’ and doesn’t quite fit with the 1940s costumes that are used throughout the performance.

grand set

Yet, these faults are small in comparison to Bourne’s beautiful choreography and Lez Brotherston’s grand set.

The Red Shoes Company. Pic: Johan Persson

The dances are dominated by a revolving theatre facade. On one side it is the usual plush curtains and gilded frame – the other side is all dusty backstage curtains. As this facade revolves the dancers travel across the space either creating a whirlwind, a waltzing ballroom or simply a scene transition.

The costumes themselves are stunning and the skirts of the ballerinas move effortlessly with their leg work.

It is a shame that the music is pre-recorded when such extraordinary detail is put into the set. However, the lack of the live music isn’t too much of an issue when the score is so affecting and draws on the emotions, recorded or not.

Although a warning against the dangers of being over-ambitious, Bourne still portrays the resulting tragedy with elegance and glamour. This is not simply a technical masterpiece but one that is utterly beautiful to behold and hear.

Running time 2 hours including one interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 May 2017
Evenings at 7.30 pm, Matinees Thurs & Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details at:

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures:
New Adventures on Twitter: @new_adventures
New Adventures on Facebook: MBNewAdventures.


Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes on tour 2017:
Tue 9 – Sat 13 May Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Tue 16 0 Sat 20 May Leicester
0116 242 3595 Book online
30 May – 3 June Sheffield
0114 249 6000 Book online
Tue 6 – Sat 10 June Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
Tue 13 – Sat 17 June High Wycombe
01494 512 000 Book online
Tue 27 June – Sat 1 July Liverpool
0844 871 3017 Book online
Tue 11 – Sat 15 July Salford
The Lowry
0843 208 6000 Book online
Tue 19 – Sat 22 July Birmingham
The Hippodrome
0844 338 5000 Book online


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