Bristol Theatre News

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at The Bristol Hippodrome – Review

Matthew Bourne’s Production of The Red Shoes
Bristol Hippodrome 2017

Our Verdict: Act One is possibly the best work from Matthew Bourne and New Adventures

Our Rating: 10/10

I’m still reeling from the sudden death of Victoria Page on stage at The Bristol Hippodrome in Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. I was busy marvelling over the full size steam train bursting through Lez Brotherson’s breathtaking set, when bam. It was suddenly all over. To be honest, I should have seen this coming considering the moment the lithe Ashley Shaw donned the infamous Red Shoes, it was clearly never going to end well.

Photo: Johan Persson

It was a sudden brutal end to a ballet which until that point had smokily smouldered its way through a complex story of obsession and passion.

This Bourne ballet is based on the 1948 movie The Red Shoes, which in turn is based on a rather dark Hans Christian Anderson fairytale.

In its customary New Adventures style, this production blends pastiche and cinema, oozing old Hollywood charm, glamour, Hitchcockian suspense and plenty of wit and humour.

From the start, the story line was gripping, edge of seat stuff. Oh the set was marvellous, with a rotating proscenium arch cutting the story from the drama on stage to the chaotic backstage life of a ballet company.

Photo: Johan Persson

Act One was a triumph, perhaps one of the best things Matthew Bourne and his usual creative band of bandits has ever done. But Act Two felt rushed. It did have some great moments such as Cymbal Man and the Egyptian Sand Dance which had the audience roaring with laughter.

One thing that’s characteristic of New Adventures work is the growing climax towards the melodramatic end of Act Two. This was far too rushed, almost confusing before voila – steam train and curtain call. After weaving moments of beauty and allowing relationships to build and develop at the perfect pace in the first half,  it needed an extra 15 minutes to emotionally grip the audience at the end because it was all over far too fast.

People watching is a great pleasure in a New Adventures ballet. Every dancer also has a part to play. No opportunity to tell a character’s story is missed and this was demonstrated perfectly by Glen Graham as the impatient, perfectionist ballet master Grischa Ljubov. He was barely able to contain his irritation with prima donna ballerina Michela Meazza as Irina Boronskaja and Liam Mower as Ivan Boleslawsky.

The Red Shoes is daring. The relationships are complex, the storyline thrilling and dramatic. From Duncan McLean’s racing projections, Bernard Herrmann’s fantastical Fahrenheit 451-Suite, this is a ballet which will take you on an exhausting journey in a way no other New Adventures ballet does.

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes is at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 08 April 2017