Review: Matthew Bourne’s Production of The Red Shoes at Liverpool Empire Theatre

By Laura Heywood.

Which do you choose: your love or your passion? This is the question at the heart of the ballet, The Red Shoes. The Red Shoes is a contemporary ballet which is loosely based upon the 1948 film of the same name. The story revolves around Victoria Page and the choice she must make between her passion for dancing or her romantic love.

Set to the adapted Hollywood golden-age movie music of Bernard Herrmann, the music ebbs and flows helping to sweep you along with Victoria, journeying with her as she makes her choice. Ashley Shaw shines in the lead role, a role she has returned to and once again made her own. Victoria makes her passion for dancing obvious from her first step on stage.

Matthew Bourne’s choreography is brilliant. He is one the most successful UK choreographers and has created many stunning dances. This is the first ballet I have seen by Matthew Bourne but it will most definitely not be the last. The entire cast is extremely talented with clever gestures and mannerisms to accentuate their characters’ roles without a word needing to be spoken. Bourne ensures that no character is wasted, weaving their performances seamlessly together.

Surprisingly, there are even a few laugh out loud moments. The journey of Julian Craster from irritable composer to romantic lover is danced brilliantly by Dominic North. Reece Causton is fantastic as the stern and unyielding Boris Lermontov, who demands full commitment from his dancers. Between them, they help to pull Victoria in two different directions throughout the ballet.

Last night’s performance was the 100th of the tour and it fully demonstrates why The Red Shoes won two Olivier Awards in 2016. No opportunity is wasted to draw the audience further into the story. The scenery has been cleverly designed to turn so that the audience gets to experience both sides of the curtain, glimpsing life backstage, sometimes in the same scene. You get to see Victoria truly struggle with which life to choose. The red shoes are always lurking nearby however and, ultimately, Victoria can never quite escape her passion for dance.

Performance Information
Matthew Bourne’s Production of The Red Shoes
Liverpool Empire Theatre
Tuesday 25th – Saturday 29th February

Top: Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page with company
Bottom: Dominic North as Julian Craster
Photography by Johan Persson

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