One of Matthew Bourne’s strongest attributes is his ability to extend a welcoming hand further than any other choreographer. No matter the story, he’ll find a way to make it appealing to die-hard dance fans, first-timers and everyone in between.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh *****
The Red Shoes is a case in point. Based on the 1948 film of the same name, the show taps into the challenges of a dancer’s life: securing your first job, winning admiration on stage, and then finding a semblance of work/life balance. Some of which most people can relate to, but the backstage shenanigans, life on tour and agonising need to perform will only touch those in the theatrical know.
Yet none of that matters, because Bourne, the consummate showman, gives everyone something to latch on to. His long-running partnership with set and costume designer Lez Brotherston has born abundant fruit here, with gorgeous 1940s outfits, a rotating stage curtain that cleverly takes us behind the scenes, and a dramatic closing scene which stops everything and everyone in its tracks.
The Red Shoes itself – a “ballet within a ballet” – is a cinematic wonder, filled with visual and aural effects. But of course, all the production values in the world won’t work unless there’s a cast to support it, and everyone here pulls it out of the bag. In particular Ashley Shaw, as Victoria Page, the main protaginist torn between love and dance, is utterly heart-rending.
Run ends tonight