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Ashley Shaw: Matthew Bourne is such a wonderful person to collaborate with

The dancer reprised her 2016 role as Victoria Page for the production

Ashley Shaw and company in The Red Shoes
© Johan Persson

The Red Shoes is one of the most beloved dancing stories of all time and has engrossed audiences ever since the original Powell and Pressburger film was released in 1948. Matthew Bourne adapted the story for a ballet production in 2016 and two Olivier Awards followed – it is one of the most celebrated works in his distinguished career.

Ashley Shaw sparkled as Victoria Page four years ago and the dancer recently reprised her role for the production's revival. We spoke with Ashley about the changes the team made for the new production and how she tried to honour Moira Shearer's performance as Victoria in the original film.

How did it feel returning to this role?

AS: It was really lovely because you knew what you were in for and what to expect. I was older and wiser so could focus on trying to improve the role and make it better than last time.

Has the performance changed much?

AS: It has developed and grown but is still the same production. The beginning has changed, so now Boris Lermontov comes on and introduces the show in the spotlight. That's good because he didn't previously have a clear entrance so you may have missed him. Choreography-wise we worked a lot on the red shoes ballet, which is the big dance number. We have made it better and more exciting for sure.

Ashley Shaw
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

What is the research process like for a production such as this?

AS: Matt first spoke to me about this show in 2014 and we always start from a place of research before we even set foot in a dance studio. The film is a great starting point because the stories are the same and with my character Vicky Page it is very clear what her characteristics are. Then I branched off and looked into Moira Shearer's life as a dancer not just an actress and other dancers of that time. Margot Fonteyn was a big inspiration as well.

You mention Moira Shearer – was it ever daunting for you to take on the iconic role of Vicky Page?

AS: When you are working with something beloved like The Red Shoes, obviously it is daunting in that you do not want to ruin peoples' favourite thing. Moira was a phenomenal dancer so whenever I read a review or a tweet saying I dance like her it is the hugest compliment.

Quite a lot of her family have come to see the show too, and her daughter Mossy even gave me a pair of Moira's pointe shoes which I display very proudly in my living room. I cried when she gave them to me – it was such a poignant and special moment.

Ashley Shaw in The Red Shoes
© Johan Persson

Does the fact The Red Shoes will be screened in cinemas soften the blow of the tour being cut short?

AS: We are gutted not to be on stage and doing what we love, so I am incredibly grateful that we managed to film the show before the virus hit. At the moment it is the only way we can keep theatre alive. If we can get these performances out then at least people are able to see a form of live theatre. We are really proud of our show and we hope that comes across on the screen as much as it does on stage. It's a strange feeling for us dancers too, as our run was cut short and we never really got a chance to say goodbye to the show. So watching again will be full of emotion I'm sure.

What impact have New Adventures had on your career?

AS: It is very fulfilling to work in different styles and with different people yet be under the umbrella of New Adventures. Matt is such a wonderful person to work for, so collaborative and loving. New Adventures definitely feels like my home and I am lucky to have been there for ten years.

What have you got in the pipeline with them for the future?

AS: I love Matt's new stuff so it would be great to be part of one new creation before I am out. There are lots of amazing shows that I have done before that I would love to revive like Edward Scissorhands and I was set to return Nutcracker! at the end of this year but that has moved to 2021. I just love Matt's work and I can see myself here as long as he will have me really.

The Red Shoes is released in cinemas nationwide from 30 September

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