Matthew Bourne knows a thing or two about innovation. With a body of work that has collectively accumulated 10 Olivier award nominations, been seen by over 4.5 million people world wide and deviates from the classics to include balletic interpretations of, to name a few, blockbuster Edward Scissorhands and iconic novel Lord of the Flies, the choreographer has become something of a master in reinventing ballet as we know it.

Credit: Johan Persson

His latest production treads a fine line between innovation and respect for traditional forms of, not just ballet, but performance as a whole. The Red Shoes is a remastering of the 1948 Academy Award winning feature film of the same name, but one could be entirely oblivious to this fact and still appreciate the clear cinematic homage paid in the staging of this performance. A blatant nod to old Hollywood, everything from the costumes to the score (crafted from the music of famed golden-age composer Bernard Herrmann) references the film industry in the mid-20th century, not only creating the illusion of incredible glamour, but tying this new production to a legacy of great performance.

Credit: Johan Persson

Indeed, Bourne’s company of protegees certainly prove themselves to be great performers of the modern day. Our performance saw Ashley Shaw as principle, flawlessly portraying the role of a rising star in the ballet world, caught in a love triangle between a slightly tragic composer (Dominic North – a sweet, earnest portrayal) and a controlling artistic director (Sam Archer – a hero of the dance world and a faithful ally of Bourne). Whilst the story itself is simple – a troupe of dancers perform Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes, and reality begins to fatefully mimic fantasy – the staging is wonderfully complex, with a spellbinding blend of ballet and contemporary forms, peppered with tongue-in-cheek moments to dispel any suggestion that Bourne is a creative who takes tradition too seriously.

THE RED SHOES by Bourne, , Choreographer and Director – Mathew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherstoni, Lighting – Paule Constable, Plymouth, 2016, Credit: Johan Persson/

Short and sweet, this is a ballet for those after something a little more dramatic than the classics London so frequently has to offer. Cinematic in every sense, the cocktail of traditional references and modern dance is unique, exciting and – like we said – pretty damn innovative.