Arts Reviews Culture

Review: The Red Shoes, Wales Millennium Centre

Photography: Johan Persson

The Red Shoes, Tuesday 14th March, Wales Millenium Centre, Reviewer: Gemma Gibson


Matthew Bourne’s dance company, New Adventures, are renowned for their vast selection of ballets including Swan Lake, The Car Man, and Sleeping Beauty, and this week the Wales Millennium Centre has been graced by their latest touring masterpiece-  a magical, original adaptation of 1948’s fairytale sensation – The Red Shoes.

Audiences are welcomed into the world of dance, following the passion and struggles that our protagonist faces. Victoria Page is torn between the loves of her life, composer Julian Craster, and the ballet. Struggles deepen as those who wear the symbolic red shoes cannot remove them, forced to dance all day and all night, travelling wherever the magical slippers please. An intense and heartfelt performance, The Red Shoes is not to be missed.

As the lights first darken a spotlight emerges, a young female ballet dancer illuminated en pointe. Our eyes are immediately drawn to her feet, where we catch our first glimpse of the breathtaking red shoes. From this simple and elegant solo, we are then drawn into the chaotic beauty of ballet as dancers begin to flood the stage, performing exciting lifts and endless turns. Never one to commit to just one dance style, as the show progresses Bourne of course incorporates as many styles as humanly possibly into this piece, ranging from ballet to jazz and contemporary.

Just like the red shoes, the stage itself comes to life on its own. The set moves almost just as much as the dancers to help present the narrative and set the scene without flaw. The revolving theatre curtains do not only represent the stage shows within the story, but as they rotate we begin to experience the journey and perspective of the characters behind the dance show as well. At times the curtains are used to reveal back stage, at other times a dancer’s bedroom. This inventive design enables the audience to connect with characters and their life offstage with ease. Bourne’s use of bold colours and beautiful costumes creatively help differentiate each character while enforcing what is happening within the story. The best scenes were those when Page flies onto stage in a vibrant red dress billowing out around her, as all the other dancers charge around in shades of dismal greys and blacks, not only highlighting the main character but the sudden building tension and urgency within the performance.

Famous for his comical and quirky moments, The Red Shoes does not fail in showcasing the narrative and choreographic style Bourne is so widely recognised for. As Page leaves her dream life in the ballet and resorts to performing for a trashier, burlesque-style dance show, the audience is left in stitches watching the Egyptian dancing double act kicking and thrusting across the stage. Bourne cleverly combines these moments of comedy with the much bigger themes within the performance. It is completed in such a subtle way it does not distract too much from the underlying pity we feel for Page abandoning her dreams, but makes for great entertainment keeping the audience hooked.

The ending of The Red Shoes is electric. The stage becomes alive once more as the red shoes make a reappearance and work their magic on poor Victoria Page, the life of a dancer becoming her downfall. The intricate contact work, footwork, and endless ballet sequences build and build and build, complimented by an array of pianos, drums, violins, and in one quick flash, the story hits it’s dramatic split second ending.

A beautiful piece of choreography, Matthew Bourne has done it again. The Red Shoes is a classic, but this talented group of dancers have made it their own, and it does not disappoint.

by Gemma Gibson

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