The Red Shoes
Whenever I have the privilege of seeing Dominic North in a New Adventures production, I continue to be amazed at how he was born in 1983 and yet still looks like a school leaver. In The Red Shoes, yet another of Sir Matthew Bourne’s dance adaptations of well-known stories, North’s Julian Craster, a composer and musical director, is one of two main love interests of ballerina Victoria Page (Cordelia Braithwaite), the other being the ballet producer Boris Lermontov (Reece Causton). The ending, or rather the end result, at the risk of giving too much away, is pretty much the same as it is in the motion picture. Here, the staging of a train on stage really isn’t bad for a touring production (and I’ve seen a production of The Railway Children in what used to be the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station, in which an actual steam train came rolling in towards the end).
It seems (almost) all about Craster (though there’s some nifty footwork from Liam Mower’s Ivan Boleslawsky too) gliding about the stage composing away like a man on a mission. There are lifts and pulls, struggles and desperation. Lermontov, on the other hand, demonstrates some serious commitment to getting Page back, or at least seeing to it if he can’t have her, Craster can’t either, but otherwise, there isn’t nearly as much for him to do. As with the other New Adventures shows I’ve come across (and there are many I haven’t seen, mind you) this is highly accessible stuff – and highly enjoyable too.
As various people have spoken and written so positively about this Korean movie, it was in the back of my mind of films to check out if the opportunity arose. There is more than a sufficient number of plot twists in this movie, which has some incredible cinematography to enjoy as it follows its characters around. In Seoul, poverty is as abound as it is anywhere else in the world, and the Kims can’t get enough income together to keep themselves going as they would like, so when a neighbour sets a password on her WiFi, the family lose ‘their’ internet connection. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho) and his wife Kim Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin) are doing their best for their teenage children, son Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik) and daughter Kim Ki-jung (Park So Dam), and to cut a long story short, they sneak their way into well-paid jobs with the same employer with, well, trickery.
“Times is hard, sir, times is hard,” as Mrs Lovett put it in the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. (I’m such a theatre buff: this may well be the only commentary on Parasite that references Sondheim.) The family’s creativity and resourcefulness are admirable, so much so that despite the high levels of deceit that occur, one finds it difficult not to sympathise even when they get their comeuppance. And boy, is the price they pay very steep. Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun Kyun), on the other hand, is a business tycoon, whose wife Park Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong) is in charge of domestic affairs, including tutors for their children, daughter Park Da-hye (Jung Ziso) and son Park Da-song (Hyun-jun Jung) and a busy social schedule – very much the polar opposite of the Kim family.
There’s a fair amount of moral ambiguity here – yes, the Kims lie, but only to get jobs. It’s not exactly the Great Train Robbery or the Hatton Garden heist. But there is something to be said about social injustice, and this film makes its points clear without a scintilla of preachiness. This was certainly a memorable movie experience.
In the days before theatre became something an obsession for yours truly, I used to watch something called television. One of the series I found rather inspirational was BBC Television’s The Choir, in which choirmaster Gareth Malone set up various choirs in various situations, including the Northolt High School, the Lancaster School (actually in Leicester), the community of South Oxhey in Hertfordshire, and then various workplaces. The fourth series, however, The Choir: Military Wives was probably the most emotional, looking at the lives of the wives and girlfriends of military personnel whilst the lads are away on overseas operations. At the time the war in Afghanistan was still raging, and the show eventually resulted in the establishment of various Military Wives Choirs across the country and elsewhere.
But even without having known all that, the ending of this film, which culminates in everybody coming together and smashing a performance at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, could be seen from a mile off, and it is absolutely no surprise that a standing ovation ensues. The narrative, broadly speaking, has been done before, in Sister Act: a bunch of ladies who cannot really sing very well eventually do so after much perseverance and disagreement.
It does, at least, portray the sort of nonsense that goes on in military barracks, when Kate (Kirstin Scott Thomas), ‘the Colonel’s wife’ considers herself to have ‘responsibilities’ towards the other people on the base, even stating that Lisa (Sharon Horgan) must step up too, what with her husband having secured a promotion. There’s Jess (Gaby French), the one who doesn’t think she can sing very well but is actually very good, and Ruby (Lara Rossi), who thinks she can sing but really can’t, at least not brilliantly. But I can see why some actual military wives would have nothing to do with their fellow ladies – there is a certain amount of pressure, whether they realise it or not, to conform. That said, it’s a crowd-pleasing charmer and sends one away from the cinema feeling quite warm and comforted.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.