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The Red Shoes Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Review of Matthew Bourne Ballet on Tour
Matthew Bourne's award-winning The Red Shoes ballet returns to Birmingham - but here's why it will make you cry even more.

the red shoes, ballet, birmingham hippodrome, matthew bourne
Return of The Red Shoes to Birmingham

Bourne's New Adventures Dance Company has embarked on a new tour of The Red Shoes, which will be at Birmingham Hippodrome from Tuesday February 11 until Saturday February 15.

Award-winning choreographer Bourne created The Red Shoes in 2016, when it first toured and later picked up two Olivier Awards for Best Entertainment of the year and Best Theatre Choreographer for Bourne.

I caught the ballet early on its tour at Sadler's Wells in London and this refreshed version has some fine tuning from Bourne, which makes the show have even more impact.

There's a more dramatic start to the performance and the ballet seems even more moving and visually breathtaking than the first time around. Based on the famous classic Powell and Pressburger film of the same name, which was described as the "greatest dance movie of all time", it's a tragic tale about a talented ballet dancer caught between her career and the man she loves.

the red shoes, ballet, birmingham hippodrome, matthew bourne
Emotional scenes in The Red Shoes


Vicky Page catches the eye of strict ballet impresario Boris Lermontov to land top billing in The Red Shoes ballet but her ambition is tested when she also falls in love with composer Julian Craster.

Torn between demanding Lermontov, who believes Vicky can't be a great dancer if distracted by love, and her feelings for Julian, the dancer faces tough compromises.

Bourne has added visual extras to the show, including a new entrance for Lermantov at the beginning of the ballet. It's poignant and perfectly fits in with this uncompromising character that demands everyone's full attention.

As the story is set after World War II in the 1940's, the stage is overflowing with rich decadent scenery and costumes recreating Covent Garden and Monte Carlo.

It's the colourful wider characters that, as usual in Bourne's work, create a fuller, richer experience. There's the prima donna ballerina rehearsing in a fur coat and vibrant young men bouncing around at the riviera seafront with nothing but long shorts and a beach ball.

the red shoes, ballet, birmingham hippodrome, matthew bourne
Stylish post-war scenery is visually stunning


Central to the action is an incredible frame for the stage, or proscenium arch, that constantly moves and turns, helping the audience differentiate between the drama unfolding both on stage and behind the scenes.

It's all accompanied to stirring music by Bernard Herrmann, who wrote scores for many of the Hitchcock films like Vertigo along with Citizen Kane.

The choreographer was a teenager when he first saw The Red Shoes film and remembers it as his "introduction" to both classical ballet and a world which was very intriguing and eccentric.

His obvious fondness and connection to The Red Shoes is reflected in this detailed adaptation that masterfully manages to recreate the storyline, while also modernising it for today's audiences. Vicky is a much more modern woman with a stronger character than in the film, to keep up with current times.

Bringing Vicky to life is Ashley Shaw, one of Bourne's long-standing dancers from New Adventures, who joins other regulars like Dominic North on the tour.

Matthew Bourne, the red shoes, new adventures, Ashley Shaw, Dominic north
New Adventures dancers Ashley Shaw and Dominic North backstage


Shaw has personal links to Birmingham as she trained at Elmhurst Ballet School in Edgbaston. The Australian saw her first Bourne production of The Car Man when she was 17 at Birmingham Hippodrome, where she is now the lead in a Bourne ballet herself. I'm sure rising talent from Elmhurst will no doubt be watching her and dreaming of their own futures on stage.

Shaw was in the original The Red Shoes over three years ago and returns with excitement for this enhanced version, which she describes as an "epic role", both physically and emotionally.

And epic is a suitable word. From the choreographer behind such great dance productions as Edward Scissorhands and Mary Poppins, The Red Shoes is another hit and an exquisite ballet that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
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Why? See an enhanced version of Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes ballet
When: February 11 - 15, 2020
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham
Cost: From 22
Your Comment
I am going to see The Red Shoes at the Canterbury Marlowe Theatre in April. This review has made me even more excited - I can't wait! Thank you
by Susan Hambidge (score: 1|22) 187 days ago
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