Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Red Shoes

As is usual with a Kneehigh show there is no 4th wall and the performance starts before the actual play. We sit in the foyer waiting for the auditorium to open. Some musicians come down the stairs that lead to the performance area and play tunes. Soon three not so young men in old-fashioned white pants and vests watch them from the balcony above. The musicians go into the adjacent cafĂ© – still playing – the men in pants follow. Everyone has shaved heads is wearing dark eye makeup.

After a while the audience goes into the theatre space. We sit on three sides on uncomfortable seats, but we do have cushions. The windows to the street outside are not curtained so there is daylight in the auditorium.

The play is a final revival of a 2001 production. The story is a variation on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes. It is about a compulsion not to say addiction that ends in death. The tale is told in a light and foolish manner – but it is also dark and disturbing. There is wonderful clog dancing – such a contrast to the ballet of the recent film Black Swan or, indeed, the 1948 film starring Moira Shearer.

This story of endeavour, foolishness and ambition is told in the style that has become and remains the benchmark of Kneehigh shows. There is deceptively simple staging and obvious artifice that disguises the deep level of skill and invention that bring their shows to such extraordinary life. The integration of music, dance, story telling and performance creates an intellectually and emotionally satisfying theatrical event.

The brilliant ensemble cast, musicians and technical support receive a deserved ovation at the end of their performance.

BAC until 9th April

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