Red Shoes is a Marvellous Spectacle full of glamour and romance

Michael Powell’s masterful adaptation of a Hans Christian Anderson story famously inspired Mathew Bourne to enter the world of dance, and his adaptation of the film is full of the glamour, romance and creativity that first attracted him.

The score is based on the music of Bernard Herrmann (ironically, there wasn’t enough of it in the film) but otherwise there is a similar feeling of busyness and commitment, as dancers exercise, designers scribble, composers write, costumiers measure, ballet masters train. All the more remarkable, then, that Ashley Shaw nevertheless emerges from a crowd of equals.  With her flame red hair she is spookily reminiscent of Moira Shearer, and brilliantly conveys the same intoxicated mix of confidence and vulnerability. Dominic North makes a lesser impression with the underwritten role of struggling composer Julian Craster, but Adam Cooper is a commanding presence as Boris Lermontov, judiciously rationing his dance moves to rare moments of raw emotion. 

This is a marvellous spectacle, and if not as strong as the astonishing, ground breaking Swan Lake, it only goes to show how high Bourne set the bar, and how early on. Given that this Gordian knot is a film of a ballet that is an adaptation of a film about ballet, it is remarkable that such coherent and compelling work has emerged.