And to make the 2019/20 revival an even more enticing prospect, dancer Adam Cooper (Bourne's original Swan) joins the company in the role of Boris Lermontov.
Below is Culture Whisper's own ★★★★★ review.
'Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by. But the red shoes dance on.'
So runs the ballet fable at the centre of The Red Shoes film (1948), adapted by popular choreographer Matthew Bourne for his latest dance spectacular and Sadler's Wells Christmas offering.
And faced with what many refer to as the best dance film ever, he has done a spectacular job.
The Technicolor original introduces us to young dancer Victoria Page (played by the flame-haired ballerina Moira Shearer) and talented composer Julian Craster. Discovered by the inflexible impresario Boris Lermontov, both find themselves catapulted into not only fame, but the highest realms of their art, by the ballet of The Red Shoes. Glorious careers begin.
But they fall in love. Lermontov, refusing to share his protégé with her lover, throws Caster out, and Vicky follows. But the struggle between love and art strangles her, until the catastrophic moment when the two men force her to choose.
The film spliced the glamorous world of émigré ballet with surreal moments of psychosis, and Bourne’s ballet sips at the same vicious cocktail. The elegant silks and Monte Carlo terraces are blacked out by the descent of a tunnel of white arches which traps the dancers in the central Ballet of the Red Shoes.
There’s beauty and darkness, but traces nonetheless of Bourne’s wit. The first act is littered with pastiches of 20th century ballet, danced by suitably glamorous characters.
One fabulous moment sees the ballet company’s star rehearse her glittering role in a fur coat, fag in mouth, but only her costume dances the steps while her face simpers in time to its twitching steps.
As the ballet morphs between reality and Vicky’s disintegrating mind, the action becomes harder to follow. But music is a guiding light throughout. A live orchestra plays an arrangement of Bernard Hermann film scores (Fahrenheit 451 and Citizen Kane) with relentless vigour, the string sections a lesson in tension and drama.
The Technicolor-drenched original has directly informed the vibrant designs of Lez Brotherston and lighting designer Paule Constable towards the same cobalt blues and camellia reds, to quite magnificent effect.
The cast for the film were almost entirely pinched from the principals list of the Royal Ballet (then Sadler’s Wells Ballet), so even more credit to the New Adventures dancers for taking their usual Broadway style into balletic territory. Ashley Shaw glows with Moira Shearer’s grace in the role of Victoria Page.
This isn’t by any means an update. Bourne’s devotion to the film and its brilliance is clear, and his tribute is cinematic. Even the black shadows beneath Vicky’s eyes at the height of her panic are an image straight out of the original.
The detail of this homage might be lost on an audience who have not seen the film, so we recommend watching first.
Bourne is an infallible choice for the Sadler’s Wells Christmas ballet but this year we suspect he has surpassed even his own standards.
|What||Matthew Bourne, The Red Shoes, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
03 Dec 19 – 19 Jan 20, 19:30 Sun 19:00 mats Sat 14:30, Sun 14:00 Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|