An Introduction to Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes
Bourne watched Powell and Pressburger’s iconic film The Red Shoes as a teenager and, at this point, had never seen a ballet live on stage. As a young adult with a love for performance and theatre, The Red Shoes provided a glimpse into an elitist, glamorous and intriguing world that was unknown to Bourne. The film’s classic love story is set within the working lives of a world-renowned touring ballet company, the Ballet Lermontov. Bourne identifies parallels between Ballet Lermontov and his own company, New Adventures, despite not being a ballet company themselves. Bourne’s ability to identify with the Ballet Lermontov helped create his vision for reinventing the film’s well-loved characters for his own company. Bourne explains, “The film’s genius is to make that theatrical world at times surreal, larger than life and highly cinematic. My challenge was to capture some of that surreal, sensuous quality within the more natural theatre setting”.
A common feature between Ballet Lermontov and New Adventures is that they both share a love of touring, both domestically and internationally, under the creative vision of their respective artistic directors. The film’s characters are depicted very much as individual dancers within the company, yet are bound by a familial sense of collaboration, loyalty and ambition towards success. When embodying these personas on stage, Bourne believes the New Adventures cast can empathise with the personal struggles behind each character. Whilst character research plays a large role in the creative process, each dancer experiences or understands the sacrifices and dilemmas behind the desire to be a professional dancer, performer or artist.
Inspired by the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen and the original film directed and produced by Powell and Pressburger, The Red Shoes is Matthew Bourne’s love letter to the world of theatre.