18 April 2011

The Red Shoes at the Battersea Arts Centre

It was a late decision to go and see The Red Shoes at BAC (Battersea Arts Centre) and it proved to be a wise one.

BAC is just a quick train to Clapham Junction and a short bus ride up Lavender Hill yet this was my first time there.

I've been to Clapham many times but have normally got no further from the station than the Falcon. I also spent some weeks there in 1992 campaigning (unsuccessfully) for Labour from an office almost across the road from BAC so at least I knew where it was and what it looked like.

The interior of the building is rather fancy, if not quite as grand as it once was, and houses various social spaces. These include the Grand Hall, a spacious informal theatre crafted from what looks like a former assembly rooms. There is an old stage at one end of the room but this ignored and hidden under seating in favour of a small stage in the round.

I like intimate and unusual theatres and BAC scores on both counts.

The space suits The Red Shoes well as the story is very much told to the audience in the knowledge that we are there watching.

I do not read reviews before shows as I'd rather be surprised and make my own mind up. And so it was that I had no real idea what sort of show this was going to be. It soon transpired that it is a pantomime for grown-ups.

It tells a typically gory fairy-tale in a typically gory way but laced heavily with humour, a narrator to guide us and a splash of audience involvement (nothing quite as crass as "behind you!).

The small cast fight for and play a mix of roles that are then indicated with the briefest of costume changes and, for example, a suitcase proclaiming that the carrier is "The Girl".

The Girl was played by a girl but the two women were played by men. All spent most of the time in their underwear. It's that kind of show.

It's also an excellent show.

A great deal of care and attention has been paid to the little details in the script, staging, music and performances to make a rich texture from what is, essentially, quite a thin story about a pair of shoes that go wrong.

But the obvious labour is not laboured and the story skips along without overplaying it's hand or trying to pretend to be something that it's not.

The cleverness of the show would not be enough by itself and its the fine ensemble performance that makes The Reds Shoes a special show. And the layout of the BAC really helps here by bringing you close to the action.

The enthusiastic ovation at the end was well deserved. It was a Saturday afternoon very well spent.

The journey home was as easy as the one there, though I did take a little detour via The Falcon! I'll be keeping an eye on the schedule at the BAC now in anticipation of repeating the journey before too long.

1 comment:

  1. I love the story red shoes! they are the best stories ever!


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