REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes ~Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page~
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes
~Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page~
upstaged rating: 

2017 marks the 30th year anniversary for New Adventures and to celebrate this milestone Sir Matthew Bourne brings the first full-length ballet adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Red Shoes to the stage. The Red Shoes is one of the lesser known of Andersen’s stories but it strikes a resounding chord with the dancing world; it has been a 20-year ambition of Bourne’s to revive the Academy Award-winning 1948 film storyline for his audience.

The ballet tells the much-loved story of Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw), a young dancer who is torn between fulfilling her dream and falling in love. Victoria dreams of being the greatest dancer in the world but when she falls for the struggling composer Julian Craster (Chris Trenfield), she finds herself caught in the midst of a battlefield between her love and her one true love, which is to dance.

When Victoria puts on the vivid red ballet shoes, given to her by the commanding ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer), she is unable to stop dancing until the shoes are removed from her feet. Strikingly set against Lez Brotherston’s stylish monochrome backdrop, Ashley Shaw moves passionately with technical brilliance and much like the red ballet shoes on her feet, she is intoxicating to watch – graceful and passionate en pointe.

Chris Trenfield demonstrates strength and agility as a dancer and storyteller through his sensitive and charming portrayal of love interest, Julian Craster. Sam Archer’s imperious Boris Lermontov offers a striking contrast – ambitious, pushy and marked. Commanding the stage, the red shoes become a tool of seduction; their trailing red ribbons indicative that all may not end well.

Throughout the performance my eye was drawn to Liam Mower as gregarious Ivan Boleslawsky – agile, fun and bold  – Mower is just mesmerising to watch.

Sir Matthew Bourne’s choreography is elegant and super stylish, and the company deliver with precision and wit. Bourne is a unique storyteller who is never afraid to challenge himself – it is this which makes every production he takes on a triumph.

Terry Davies’ new musical score, using the music of golden-age Hollywood composer, Bernard Herrmann, is an absolute delight. Managing to juxtapose the romantic, heart-achingly beautiful with the more playful, comical numbers – the New Adventures Orchestra deliver with gusto. Lez Brotherston’s ornate revolving theatre set design and dazzling costumes inspired by 1940’s glamour contrast strikingly against Duncan McLean’s Burton-esque video projection. 

The Red Shoes is a breathtaking balletic display – a beautifully tragic tale poignantly told.

But don’t just take my word for it – go and see for yourselves.

-Kristy Stott

The Red Shoes runs at The Lowry Theatre, Salford until Saturday 3rd December 2016 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW – Romeo and Juliet – Birmingham Royal Ballet (The Lowry)

Birmingham Royal Ballet - Romeo and Juliet © Andrew Ross
Birmingham Royal Ballet – Romeo and Juliet
© Andrew Ross
Upstaged Rating: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet Company make a pleasing return to the Lowry in Salford to continue their Shakespeare Season which commemorates the 400 year anniversary since William Shakespeare’s death. There is no better adaptation to bring to the stage then Kenneth MacMillan’s much celebrated classic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, which is still as fresh and as exhilarating as when it was first performed in 1965.

The tale of the star-crossed lovers is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s magnificent score, featuring ‘Dance of the Knights’ which many will recognise as the opening theme tune of BBC television show The Apprentice. However, there are no novices in this beautiful production, only stand-out performances from emotive storytellers loaded with technical brilliance.

Paul Andrews’ stunning and detailed design conjures up all of the hustle and bustle of Verona amidst the feud of the two rival families – The Montagues and The Capulets. Like a medieval masterpiece framed by a proscenium arch, the dancers glisten under John B Read’s lighting design.

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Birmingham Royal Ballet – Romeo and Juliet © Andrew Ross

Momoko Hirata impresses as the dainty, vulnerable but determined Juliet – a masterful storyteller and graceful dancer. From jesting with her nurse, who is brilliantly played by Ruth Brill, to the final harrowing scene when she finds Romeo lying cold next to her in the charnel house. Hirata handles the transitions between the varying emotions superbly in this beautiful but ill-fated love story. Joseph Caley is well cast as Romeo, charming and impulsive in love – Caley expresses the immaturity of young love during his brief passage from boyhood to death.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet is a stunningly impressive production. With Prokofiev’s epic musical score delivered powerfully by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Kenneth MacMillan’s acclaimed choreography and Paul Andrews’ picture-perfect design, the talented company deliver a beautiful performance of the most tragic love story ever told.

-Kristy Stott

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet continues at the Lowry until Saturday 5th March 2016. 

With First Steps: A Child’s The Dream on Friday, March 4 at 1 pm. A delightful ballet adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream recommended for ages 3-7.

 

REVIEW – The Little Match Girl (The Lowry)

The Little Match Girl at The Lowry, Salford
Date: 16 January 2016
Upstaged Rating: 

 

When the tale of The Little Match Girl comes up in conversation it is met with smiles and nostalgia for being a poignant childhood story. Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale about child poverty in the 19th century can be a tough moral lump to swallow – the sad ending of The Little Match Girl remains etched in your mind. This charming dance adaptation by choreographer Arthur Pita is uplifting and beautiful and with an ending so magical, The Little Match Girl will leave you smiling as you wipe the tear from your eye.    

The story is set on an icy Christmas eve in a fictional Italian city, little Fiammetta skips along the streets selling her matches. Cold and hungry, she meets good and bad people on her journey – those who take pity and give her a gold coin and those who steal it back from her along with her shoes. Left with only one match to keep her warm, Fiammetta’s body cannot fight the freezing cold anymore. In a heartwarming scene, her beloved Grandmother appears to guide her up through the starry sky to the moon.

Designer Yann Seabra’s snowy terrain quickly transforms into a magical lunar landscape, complete with astronaut and moon buggy. Cloaked and top-hatted Frank Moon provides the astonishing ethereal soundtrack – playing the lute, a violin and a music box amongst others. Arthur Pita’s direction keeps the audience gripped, telling the classic story with a good dose of humour and an outstanding attention to detail – pitched perfectly for the recommended age of five and over.

A cast of just four conduct swift costume changes to play a total of eleven characters. Corey Annand puts in a skilled and delicate performance as the forlorn match girl Fiammetta while Valentina Golfieri burns brightly as the brutish match boy and the haughty daughter of the wealthy Donnarumma family. Angelo Smimmo shows off a superb singing voice as the father of the Donnarumma family and as Fiammetta’s celestial grandmother. The towering figure of Karl Fagerlund Brekke completes the impressive lineup, taking on four diverse roles which include the astronaut and Mother Donnarumma.

With a running time of just one hour, Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl is ideal for little children’s big imaginations. However, I highly recommend this enchanting adaptation as a must-see for all ages – just perfect in every way.

-Kristy Stott

REVIEW – ballet LORENT – Snow White (The Lowry)

balletLORENT -- Snow White © Kit Haigh
balletLORENT — Snow White
© Kit Haigh
UPSTAGED RATING: 

 

Following the success of Rapunzel, balletLORENT are back with a striking adaptation of the Brothers Grimm classic, Snow White.

In a return to true Grimm style, there is no wicked stepmother – instead the evil queen is Snow White’s biological mother. Following the sudden death of the King, young Snow White and her mother have a close and loving relationship for a number of years. It isn’t until Snow White becomes a beautiful young woman and her widowed mother decides to look for another love, that problems begin to manifest.

In a witty, modern and practical approach, writer Carol Ann Duffy illustrates that the Queen’s youthful looks are attributed to surgery rather than magic. In a bid to secure a nearby suitor, the affected Queen sends a portrait of herself painted years earlier, which the Prince mistakes for Snow White. In a vicious turn, the Queen is overcome with envy and sets out to have her own daughter executed.

With the ominous sound of a clock ticking in the background, Liv Lorent’s choreography conjures up beautiful images of the passing of the seasons – the young dancers blowing white feathers like snowflakes and playfully skipping with kites through an autumnal breeze. Phil Eddolls’ set design of a huge lavish dressing table is suggestive of Snow White’s coming of age – the drawers being used to emerge and conceal baby, child and young woman; another speedy turnabout and the set becomes a leafy forest to protect Snow White from the Huntsman who has been sent to kill her.

In addition, a mysterious group of miners take the place of the seven dwarves – their bodies twisted due to the amount of time that they spend underground. They move to the soundtrack of industrial banging and clanging, their headlamps bouncing in the darkness of Malcolm Rippeth’s gothic lighting design.

Natalie Trewinnard gives a youthful, athletic and passionate vision as Snow White – the duet with Huntsman Gavin Howard is beautifully expressive – gentle and impassioned all at the same time. Gwen Berwick’s as The Mirror impresses en pointe in a duet with Caroline Reece’s malevolent Queen.

balletLORENT consistently produce high-quality dance productions which are suitable for all ages. With an emphasis on storytelling, this contemporary ballet of Snow White is a perfect introduction to dance and I will certainly be waiting for the next production in balletLORENT’s fairy tale trilogy.

-Kristy Stott

ballet LORENT’s Snow White is at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh from 22nd – 23rd January 2016 before continuing the tour at Warwick Arts Centre in February. For more dates through 2016 please click here.

REVIEW – Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty (The Lowry)

SLEEPING BEAUTY
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty © Johan Persson
Date: 24 November 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Matthew Bourne and New Adventures are back at The Lowry in Salford with a gothic reimagining of the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty.

By Bourne’s own admittance the familiar story of Sleeping Beauty always left him ‘a little cold’ – understandably so – it is a tale about a Princess who spends most of her time asleep. Taking his inspiration from Tchaikovsky’s score and the original fairytale, Bourne plays with our expectations of the well-loved tale and adds further layers to the story, with a surprising twist and new characters – Sleeping Beauty is a faultless and magical production. Giving us all the visual clues that we need to experience the story in a new and refreshing way – there is no finer storyteller than Matthew Bourne.

Set to the backdrop of Tchaikovsky’s passionate and menacing score, Sleeping Beauty tells the love story of Princess Aurora and her one true love, the Royal Gamekeeper, Leo. However, their love story is cut short when the dark fairy, Carrabosse curses Aurora to sleep for a 100 years. Carrabosse’s son, Caradoc also has designs to wed the Princess – however, she can only be awoken by her true love’s kiss.

Sumptuous gold curtains frame the stage and footlights donning fairy wings cast their light up to the stunning movement. Lez Brotherston’s set and costume design is dreamlike and striking, transporting us through from the Victorian era to the Edwardian period and then the present day with ease.

There is an abundance of personality and humour from the outset as Bourne chooses not to depict Aurora as a babe in arms but a loveable and mischievous little beauty. Using clever puppetry, Aurora is given a strong identity from the very beginning bringing giggles from the audience.

As always with Matthew Bourne and New Adventures, the most striking feature is the individuality of the dancers and their outstanding talent as dynamic storytellers. Ashley Shaw shines as Princess Aurora, playful and dreamlike, with Chris Trenfield as her true love Leo – their pas de deux at the end of Act II is perfectly expressive of young love. Adam Maskell shows his versatility as a dancer playing both malevolent Carabosse and her sinister son, Caradoc. Led by Christopher Marney‘s Count Lilac, the winged fairies Mari Kamata, Cordelia Braithwaite, Leon Moran, Dena Lague and Liam Mower, complete a wonderful line-up – technically perfect – they perform with passion, wit and vivacity. 

Once you have seen a Matthew Bourne production you become hooked and poised ready for the next. Following the well-deserved standing ovation and rapturous applause for Sleeping Beauty, Bourne hinted that he has a brand new production waiting in the wings. With a formal announcement to be made after Christmas – he did reveal that it will receive its premiere in Salford at The Lowry. I can’t wait.

-Kristy Stott

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is at The Lowry until Saturday 28th November.

REVIEW – Swan Lake – Birmingham Royal Ballet (The Lowry)

Birmingham Royal Ballet © Bill Cooper
Swan Lake — Birmingham Royal Ballet
© Bill Cooper

 

Date: 23 september 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

 

Swan Lake has returned to The Lowry this September – in this lavish, romantic and stunningly beautiful production by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Swan Lake is arguably the most famous ballet in the classical repertoire, certainly one of ballet’s greatest love stories and a personal favourite of mine. Headed up by David Bintley CBE and with choreography by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright, this production by Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the finest that you will ever see.

Powerfully illuminated by Tchaikovsky’s striking score, Swan Lake depicts the story of Prince Siegfried’s love for a beautiful princess named Odette. Odette has been cursed by the evil sorcerer Baron von Rothbart and must spend her days as  a swan, only returning to human form between midnight and dawn. The sorcerer’s wicked enchantment can only be broken if someone who has never loved before swears an oath of undying love. However, Rothbart further complicates the lovers by introducing a beautiful black swan, Odile.

Prima ballerina, Céline Gittens  is captivating playing the twin roles of Odette and Odile – she turns effortlessly, for what seems like an eternity, on one spot alongside Tyrone Singleton, her Prince Siegfried. The whole company are outstanding – but the harmony between the two principles during their pas de deux is spectacular. Singleton demonstrates strength, energy and passion against Gittens’ purity and elegance – both dancers are masterful storytellers.

Philip Prowse’s set design is majestic and detailed from the grand setting of the reception at the castle to the haunting embankment at dawn. The costume design is a marvel – heavy, bejewelled and rich attire for the regal scenes, yet the dancers move with ease. The twinkling white tutu’s worn by the swans give a stark contrast against the medieval backdrop of red, black and gold opulence.  Atmospheric lighting design by Peter Teigan fully complements the graceful magic of the dancers on stage by conjuring up a sense of autumn and the haze of sunlight drifting through the trees; the cascading dry ice creates a haunting lakeside setting for the shimmering formation of the spectacular female corps de ballet, twinkling and moving perfectly as one body.

The wonderful sound of the soft padding of pointe shoes across the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry, backed by Tchaikovsky’s legendary lyrical score delivered  by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia make this a first rate production – thrilling, beautiful and faultless.

-Kristy Stott

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake continues at the Lowry until Saturday 26 September 2015. 

With First Steps: A Child’s Swan Lake on Friday 25 September at 1pm.

 

REVIEW – Coppélia – Birmingham Royal Ballet (The Lowry)

© 2015 Roy Smiljanic
© 2015 Roy Smiljanic
Date: 04 March 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

The Birmingham Royal Ballet are back at The Lowry with an enchanting production of Coppélia. As David Bintley CBE celebrates his twentieth year as director of the company, there really is no ballet more apt for this occasion than the story of Coppélia, packed full of mischievous humour, triumph and joy.

As the Royal Ballet Sinfonia begin to play and the gauze raises to reveal Peter Farmer‘s impressive leafy set, we are transported to a village somewhere in Eastern Europe where Dr Coppélius, an eccentric toy maker wheels out his latest mechanical creation on to his workshop balcony. His only wish is to bring this wind-up doll, Coppélia, to life. Michael O’Hare tells the story of the funny doctor well and looks the part with his puzzled facial expressions and his frazzled white hair.

When Coppélia is left out on the doctors workshop balcony she arrouses attention from flirtatious Franz and the green eye of jealousy from his wife-to-be Swanilda, with neither of the pair realising that she is only a doll.

When the two lovers, separately and unknowingly decide to enter Dr Coppélius’ strange workshop comic chaos is unleashed. Swanilda and her friends pull off the dusty red drapes in the doctors spooky workshop to reveal more of his mechanical dolls. Peter Wright‘s choreography succeeds in bringing all of the humour in the story to the fore, not an opportunity is missed and the world class dancers deliver with energy and sparkle.

© 2015 Roy Smiljanic

Elisha Willis as Swanilda is as an amazing storyteller as she is a dancer – with impeccable timing she conveys humour while delivering complex ballet sequences with ease. Chi Cao as Franz shows a lightness of movement in his solo pieces – turning effortlessly as he appears to float in mid air. Again, a good actor, performing with a good hint of arrogance as the flighty Franz. Following the two striking female soloists in Act III, Celine Gittens and Delia Mathews, the pas de deux between the two main dancers appears to lack a little confidence though.

Peter Farmer‘s intricate, striking set design frames the dancing perfectly, the leafy forrest and Dr Coppélius’ workshop through to the grand drapes and garlands during the Festival of the Bell.

This joyous and witty ballet is a light hearted and humorous celebration of love, suitable for seasoned dance lovers or those who are making their first trip to the ballet. I took Thing 1 (aged 9) and he found it easy to follow and found the story very amusing. With Delibes wonderful musical score, stunningly pretty costumes and Peter Wright’s impressive choreography, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia really is a magical feast for the senses.

-Kristy Stott

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia continues at the Lowry until Saturday March 7th. 

With First Steps: A Child’s Coppélia on Friday March 6 at 1pm.

 

March Must-Sees

Our pick of the best Manchester Theatre this month

Rather like the Mancunian weather at the moment – we’ve got an eclectic month of theatre planned for March. It’s a lucky dip of cultural goodness – so feast your eyes on our top picks for this month.

Blood Brothers (Palace Theatre)

Written by Willy Russell, Blood Brothers tells the moving story of twins who were separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences.

This smash hit musical sees multi-platinum selling artist and my favourite crooner, Marti Pellow take the role of narrator and the critically acclaimed Maureen Nolan play Mrs Johnstone.

© 2015 Keith Pattison
© 2015 Keith Pattison

Featuring a superb musical score, which includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged Tell Me It’s Not True, the show has been affectionately named the Standing Ovation Musical.

Blood Brothers runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 2nd March 2015 until 14th March 2015.

Sham Bodie (Kraak, Northern Quarter) – 5th March

Sham Bodie is a monthly night held at Kraak in the NQ. Essentially, it’s like lots of the best nights out rolled into one package. There is stand-up and live comedy sketches, from new and established acts, as well as live music from some really good bands. This month features BBC New Comedy Award finalist Tom Little, Fab Radio’s Nina Gilligan and Michael J Dolan. There is also music from garage blues two-piece, Dirty Heels. Sham Bodie only costs a fiver! And this month, in honour of St Patrick’s Day on the 17th, they have teamed up with their pals at Jameson to bring you free whisky. Yes, I said FREE WHISKY…go on, go on, go on….

SICK! Festivallogo

Launched in 2013, SICK! Festival is the first of its kind in the UK, dedicated to revealing, debating and exploring the physical, mental and social challenges of life and death.

SICK! isn’t for the faint hearted or those who fancy a bit of frivolous escapism- the festival explores a variety of issues such as rape and mental health, amongst others, through a variety of different mediums – art installations, film and performance. The festival runs through most of March and events are taking place all over Manchester and Salford. Please take a look at the program of events.

Anna Karenina (The Royal Exchange)

Ony Uhiara, takes the title role of Anna, a dutiful wife and a loving mother. When she meets Count Vronsky it turns her world on its head, putting everything that she has ever known at risk. In a parallel story, Levin is trying to live justly in a social system built on injustice. Spurned on by the woman he loves, he turns his back on wealthy society and heads for his country estate, determined to refashion it into a vision of a fairer world. Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, set against the backdrop of imperial Russia, explores what happens when two very different couples grapple with the strongest emotion we humans are capable of feeling – love.

Olivier-nominated director Ellen McDougall makes her Royal Exchange debut in this contemporary version of the Leo Tolstoy classic.

Anna Karenina runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 19th March 2015 until 2nd May 2015.

 BRINK (The Studio, The Royal Exchange)

This promises to be an interesting world premiere by The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company and written by Jackie Kay (one of my favourite writers – love Red Dust Road).

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The production explores the idea of being on the ‘brink’ – what brings you to the brink? When you are close to the edge – do you push forward or do you step back? Everything is possible when you are so close to the brink.

BRINK is running in The Studio at the Royal Exchange from 26th March 2015 until 29th March 2015.

Maxine Peake as Hamlet (The Cornerhouse)

For those of you, like myself, who didn’t manage to catch Maxine Peake as Hamlet the first time round at The Royal Exchange – this film screening of Hamlet at Manchester’s Cornerhouse may be for you.

Hamlet is possibly Shakespeare’s most iconic work, exploring ideas of love and betrayal and themes of murder and madness.

This groundbreaking version of Hamlet, directed by Sarah Frankcom, was the Royal Exchange’s fastest selling show of the last decade. It had a complete sell out run in the theatre and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet was described as  “delicately ferocious” by The Guardian and “a milestone Hamlet” by the Manchester Evening News.

I’m definitely going to catch it this time round.

Cornerhouse have 3 showings of this unmissable performance.

Mon 23 March: Doors 19:15, Starts at 19:30
Sun 29 March: Doors 14:45, Starts at 15:00
Thu 2 April: Doors 19:15, Starts at 19:30

Birmingham Royal Ballet – Coppélia (The Lowry)

And finally, something for the little ones – Birmingham Royal Ballet are visiting The Lowry with Coppélia, it runs from March 4th until March 7th.

But more importantly, the Birmingham Royal Ballet are also presenting First Steps – A Child’s Coppélia on Friday 6th March at 1pm.

In this hour long version, the delightful story has been specially adapted to suit children aged from 3-7.

The Lowry are also holding a Family Fun Day on Saturday 7th March from 12-1:30pm, which is free to all matinee ticket holders.

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