Matthew Bourne brings his The Red Shoes dancing into Norwich

The 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes has been adapted by choreographer and director Ma

The 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes has been adapted by choreographer and director Mathew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

The 1948 Powell and Pressburger film about a ballerina torn between the ambitions of two men, is his latest acclaimed ballet adaptation, using the music of Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann.

The 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes has been adapted by choreographer and director Ma

The 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes has been adapted by choreographer and director Mathew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

A beloved fairytale and Oscar-winning movie, The Red Shoes has seduced audiences and inspired generations of dancers with its tale of obsession, possession and one girl's dream.

The 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film, which starred Moira Shearer as Victoria Page who lives to dance but her ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion, is regularly named amongst the greatest movies of all-time.

Hailed as one of the most glorious Technicolor cinematic feasts ever concocted for the screen its fans include filmmakers such as Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese.

The story sees the rising star ballerina torn between an idealistic composer and a ruthless impresario intent on perfection. She becomes the lead dancer in a new ballet called The Red Shoes, itself based on the fairy tale The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen. But does she follow her heart and pursue a romance with composer Julian Craster, or the advice of Svengali-like impresario Boris Lermontov who believes affairs of the heart are a distraction from her quest for professional success?


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Now celebrated and hugely popular choreographer Matthew Bourne has created a magical new dance adaptation of the film which reunites the team who worked on his worldwide hit production of Sleeping Beauty.

Though the fairytale-like story has all the hallmarks of a ballet, the choreographer has admitted he took a risk in adapting it for the stage. The film's classic status didn't stop a 1993 musical stage version flopping on Broadway, lasting all of five days and losing nearly $8m.

Sir Matthew Bourne, whose previous productions have included ballet classics Nutcracker! and his fam

Sir Matthew Bourne, whose previous productions have included ballet classics Nutcracker! and his famous all-male Swan Lake and his take on Edward Scissorhands. Picture: Hugo Glendinning - Credit: Archant

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Bourne has admitted he was taking a risk adapting it for his version, but said it is his love letter to the theatre.

'Everything is a risk, who knows what is successful these days,' he has said. 'The risk of this was that it is not so well known. It was our job now to introduce people to the world of the film, the story and the music.'

And Bourne's ability to mix storytelling, beautiful choreography and lots of nods to popular culture has made it a risk worth taking with the production winning rave reviews.

And The Red Shoes has proved to be the hottest ticket of 2017 so far at Norwich Theatre Royal with next week's performances selling out long before opening night.

Matthew Bourne's New Adventures company has, of course, produced some of the most successful dance theatre productions of recent times, including those other ballet classics Nutcracker! and his famous Swan Lake with a menacing all-male ensemble cast.

This is not the first time he has turned to cinema for inspiration, it follows in the footsteps of his magical dance production of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands.

The cast of Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, which features music from Hollywood composer Bernard Her

The cast of Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, which features music from Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

For Bourne, it was the chance to explore a celluloid story which has been close to his heart for many years.

He said: 'I have loved the film since I was a teenager with its depiction of a group of people all passionate about creating something magical and beautiful. It seemed to be saying that art was something worth fighting for, or even dying for, if the rather melodramatic conclusion is to be believed?

'It was a world full of glamour, romance and creativity populated by larger-than-life personalities. In short, it was a world I wanted to be a part of.'

And that main message of living — or possibly even dying — for your art is something at the heart of the piece as well as the importance of having creativity in your life, although he says there are other important elements too. 'I'm also exploring how the fairy-tale world of ballet and the stories it tells can actually blend into a real-life tale of love, ambition, artistic and personal fulfilment, until the two are barely distinguishable,' said Bourne.

In an era where reality TV shows like The X Factor encourage those obsessed with being famous to follow their dreams, he also believes it gives an insight into the secretive world of life behind-the-scenes. 'We get a glimpse of that, an insight into the art form of dance, and a revealing backstage story into the minds of artists and the creative life.

'However, the heart of the story is a tragic, real-life, rectangular love story like no other. Two men are in love with the same woman but in very different ways, and all tied up with their combined artistic achievement. '

The cast of Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, which features music from Hollywood composer Bernard Her

The cast of Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, which features music from Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

When the film was first released back in 1948, there was a lot more mystique about backstage life in the ballet world. Although things are more open these days, Matthew believes his New Adventures company is exactly right to portray the Lermontov company of the show.

He said: 'I don't think a contemporary ballet company today would necessarily create the right atmosphere to recreate the company we see in the 1948 film. The family atmosphere of New Adventures with its group of talented, highly individual performers, who tour around the UK and the world as a tight-knit community, seemed the right company to portray the fictional Lermontov company of yesteryear.'

Musically the production is set to a new score arranged by Terry Davies using the mesmerising music of golden-age Hollywood composer, Bernard Herrmann, most famous for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Martin Scorsese.

His work ranges from the witty and playfully robust to the achingly romantic and bittersweet, and played live by the New Adventures Orchestra.

Although best known for his work on Hitchcock movies, Matthew chose some of Herrmann's earlier work. 'Various concert pieces and suites from his earlier films have proved very rich sources of material. Who knew that Citizen Kane was so full of dance music? And has there ever been a more bittersweet and moving film score than that for The Ghost and Mrs Muir? These both feature heavily,' he said.

'The score for the 1966 movie Fahrenheit 451 is both magical and unsettling and the perfect sound for The Red Shoes. It also gives us the sense that the Ballet Lermontov is creating something new and slightly futuristic. There is so much to enjoy musically in The Red Shoes. I think it will be one of the revelations of the piece.'

Visually, Matthew has also worked once again with Associate Designer Lez Brotherston to depict settings like Covent Garden and Monte Carlo as well as show how the artistic process of Lermontov and his company is worked through.

And ultimately, the big question is does Matthew relate to Lermontov who puts dance above everything else? He says: 'I am nothing like him and I do acknowledge that some of his views are a little extreme today but I do understand his particular love of Vicky, his love for the company, and dance in general. Nothing else seems as important. As I get older, I recognise that sentiment more and more.'

• Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, Norwich Theatre Royal, February 21-25, 7.30pm, 2.30pm Feb 23/25, £40.50-£8, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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