Whilst I enjoy all types of performance and art, I could never say that I’m an expert in ballet. I’ve been known to yawn, and even sneak out during epically long performances through which I struggle to follow any kind of storyline. So it was nice to see a performance that was not only so engaging, but with my auntie, who has racked up a number of notches on her ballet bedpost, and through supporting her daughter in the field, knows a thing or two about it.
Here’s Becca’s views on Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, performed at Canterbury’s The Marlowe Theatre.
The adaptation of the 1948 film was very well choreographed. From the opening scene right to the end kept the audience enthralled and captivated.
As the mum of a young dancer I looked not only at the story but the whole production itself, from the costume, to the set designs, lighting and choreography . There was smooth transitions through all the different scenes, and the way that the spinning curtain was used to assist in the scene changes was particularly effective. At times it was like you were at the back of the stage looking out to the audience. The transitions to and from the white background to the darker scenes was well planned and executed. It was easy to see the differences in scenes as they were danced.
The dancers all players their roles as if they were actually in a film themselves, with charisma and charm, and showed great acting skills as well as the vast variety of dance genres they had to master. All twenty were talented and played each role with aplomb.
The costumes clearly put the show in the right era of the 1920s and ‘30’s and clearly demonstrated the social class. The dancers obviously were used to quick costume changes, some of which were made in the wings, knowing the layout of the dressing rooms at the Marlowe.
The dances ranged from traditional ballet with very little Pointe work, to sections of jazz, Argentine tango and the occasional showgirl repertoire and Egyptian comedic dances. There was even a beach scene whereby the dancers had large beach balls to control. We were waiting at times to see the balls run off the stage but they were controlled admirably. There were times when you forgot you were watching a show within a show. This was especially true when the Red Shoes ballet sequence was danced. You really felt the emotions of both the dances and dancers.
The second half of the show was more relaxed. Here unfolded the love story between the pianist and the lead dancer along with the producer’s jealousy towards them. The dramatic end and astounding train visuals was totally unexpected from where I was sitting. I found the show truly amazing in lots of ways, particularly the demonstration of the skills and artistry of all the dancers. It was inspiring and would recommend it to others to watch, whether you ‘know’ ballet or not.