The Red Shoes

The Plot of The Red Shoes film

The Plot of The Red Shoes film and its differences with Matthew Bourne’s production 

Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes is heavily based on the award-winning film, however, there are some differences evident in the New Adventures production, which Bourne has made for artistic and narrative reasons.

In the first scene of the film we are at a performance by the Ballet Lermontov in Covent Garden. Three music conservatory students, Julian Craster (played by Marius Goring), Terry and Ike are in attendance to hear the ballet score Heart of Fire, composed by their teacher, Professor Palmer. Also present is Victoria 'Vicky' Page (Moira Shearer), a young, unknown dancer from an aristocratic background, with her aunt, Lady Neston. Julian recognises the music from Heart of Fire as one of his own compositions, and Ike notices another passage as another of Julian's works. During the performance, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), the company impresario, receives an invitation to an after-ballet party at Lady Neston's residence. Lermontov initially declines, but Professor Palmer persuades Lermontov to attend, exclaiming that “she's a great patron of the arts”. Julian leaves the performance mortified at his professor's plagiarism of his music, followed by Terry and Ike.

Lady Neston has organised the after-party as an undercover audition to introduce Vicky to Lermontov, who then invites her to join the company. Contrastingly, in Bourne’s adaptation, Vicky is invited to audition following the after-party alongside the quirky Joyce. Both are put through their technical paces by Ballet Master Grischa, and Vicky gets chosen to join the company over Joyce. 

Meanwhile, Julian has written to Lermontov to explain that he in fact composed Hearts of Fire, but then tries to retrieve the letter. Lermontov's assistant Dimitri stops Julian gaining entry to Lermontov's suite. Julian requests to take back his letter before Lermontov sees it, however, Lermontov has already read it. Lermontov asks Julian to play one of his own works at the piano. After hearing Julian play, he hires Julian as a repetiteur for the company orchestra and assistant to the company's conductor, Livingstone Montague. Lermontov realises that Julian was the true composer of Heart of Fire. Julian and Vicky arrive for work at the Ballet Lermontov on the same day. 

In the New Adventures production, whilst working alone in the theatre, Julian is swept up in a dream of one day conducting his own work with a full orchestra. Lermontov watches on from the side-lines and recognises Julian’s passion, talent and potential, resulting in Lermontov asking Julian to compose his brand new ballet The Red Shoes

Irina Boronskaja (played by Ludmilla Tcherina), Prima Ballerina in The Ballet Lermontov has a different storyline in the film to Bourne’s adaptation. In the film, Boronskaja leaves the company to marry and the entire cast flock around her in support, except for Lermontov who is outraged by her decision and is furious at being abandoned by his star dancer. In Bourne’s version, Irina injures herself when rehearsing Les Sylphides and is unable to dance the lead role, paving the way for Vicky to take the lead in The Red Shoes Ballet.

Following The Red Shoes Ballet, Vicky and Julian announce their undeniable love for each other and Lermontov, fuelled with jealousy, gives Vicky an ultimatum to choose between dancing and love. Vicky and Julian are forced to resign from company. In the film, Lermontov coaxes Vicky back to dancing with the Lermontov Ballet leading to a distraught Julian making Vicky decide again between their love and dancing, resulting in Vicky’s demise. In Bourne’s version Vicky becomes disheartened and depressed with her life in London and becomes more and more distressed, leading to an argument between Julian and Vicky, fuelled by their frustration and lack of artistic and creative fulfilment. This becomes the driving force for Vicky’s return to the company, in contrast to Lermontov’s manipulation of her, as seen in the film.