This year, The Battersea Arts Centre will be commemorating three decades of putting on innovative productions. Last week's 2011 OffWestEnd awards awarded The Animals and Children Took to the Streets the "Best Entertainment" award and few who went to Punchdrunk's Masque Of The Red Death at the BAC will have forgotten it.
Fittingly for birthday celebrations, one of the happy returns is the much-lauded Kneehigh Theatre and their production of The Red Shoes which was put on in the BAC's Council Chamber in 2000 and is coming back to the same venue (and, indeed, the same room). Having been shown all over the world, Cornish company Kneehigh have chosen the BAC for the final UK performances of this dark take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale.
Despite their name and The Red Shoes being originally a children's fable, this Kneehigh tale is not for the young 'uns. For those not conversant with the plot, it's a story no doubt familiar to many women: girl meets shoes, girl falls in love with shoes, girl gets then loses shoes and finally girl gets shoes back though at a gruesome cost. It's about as faithful to Andersen's original fairy tale as a Premiership footballer but we don't mind as the differences are all for the better.
Most of the cast, including our heroine, appear in Belsen chic: shaven heads, white baggy vests and tight white pants. They are marshalled through the proceedings by sardonic drag queen Lady Lydia who remains above the action adding asides and voiceovers. This is a vigorous show which, like the eponymous footwear, never stops moving. In terms of invention and humour, we preferred Kneehigh's Hansel and Gretel but The Red Shoes is a cleverer production which hits harder all the dramatic hotspots from the frenetic dancing routines and top-notch acting to the gory finale where the butcher turns the phrase "chop-chop" on its head as he performs a slow and bloody excision.
The Red Shoes continues until 9 April. Tickets and more information are available here.
If The Red Shoes has whet your appetite for more modern Hans Christian Andersen adaptations, check out The Pet Shop Boys' debut ballet The Most Incredible Thing.
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