Thursday, May 18, 2017

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes is like the most incredible chocolate box. Ribbons, tissue paper, foil-wrapped, multiple layers of exquisite morsels. But you get to the final tray, buried in the heart of the box, and it's EMPTY.

Though this won't be the view of most as it got a standing ovation. Heavens, I gave it a standing ovation as I love leaping up and clapping and I don't think we Brits do it enough.

I only sketchily know the story. A girl gets some nice red shoes. She dances like an angel when she wears them. But then she dreadfully discovers that she can't get them off. Isn't there a thing in the original  version of the story (is it a Brothers Grimm story?) (it's not, I learn) where she ends up cutting her feet plus shoes off but her newly stumped legs just keep on dancing? Or is that just my grim mind?

Mr Bourne took the magical shoes and relocated them in a dance company (clever!) with a domineering ballet master (good, she needs someone to dance with) and some sort of love interest (someone else to dance with). There's a princess type who gets all the lead roles (good cameo) but she hurts her foot so the domineering one plucks the angel dancer from obscurity and makes her his star. She probably doesn't need the shoes but she uses them anyway. And they cause bother. 

Maybe only my grim mind found this story, clever and tinged with darkness though it was, a little dull. But I can't really work out why. I know how Cinderella Swan Lake Carmen (Car Man) Dorian Gray Edward Scissor Hands will end but I didn't find them dull. Maybe the story is difficult. "Take off the shoes!" you want to cry, "and everything will be alright."

As a study of addiction (and I can hear BS scoffing at this as it's a fairy story, no? It's not a grim story of life as we know it), it has more merit. The will she won't she resort to the shoes moment is really nicely done at the start of act two. She unpacks them from their secret box, full of wistful yearning. She knows it's wrong wrong wrong but doesn't that make it all the more attractive?
Anyway, story aside, the production is completely lush. From the moment the second girl slithers round the curtain in this golden dress (above) that probably cost more to make than my whole Fringe show will. It's a sumptuous looking thing. The set is glorious. Ingenious. Versatile. The costumes are extensive. Elegant. Wonderful. The dancing is lovely. The choreography imaginative. And irrespective of whether or not I like the story, I admire the man no less for concocting the whole thing. (I'm sure he'll be relieved.) The smartness of making a ballet about a dancer is impossible to argue with. 

Ultimately, I just didn't like it. But the leaping audience did and that is what matters.


Blogger Claire said...

Ah yes, good. Not just me then! (Though he puts it better!)

8:57 am  

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