This production of The Red Shoes is by quirky and innovative theatre group Kneehigh who originally had success with the play 10 years ago. Here, Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale conjures a strange, nonsensical world filled with dark secrets.
The cast are a motley crew, in uniforms of plain white men’s underwear, all with shaved heads. Their eyes are circled with dark make up, their numb expressions creepily dehumanised.
Patrycja Kujawska is strikingly scary as the play’s main girl. She is mute throughout but speaks volumes with her glaring eyes and spooky smirk. She dons red clogs that although feminine, look extremely heavy and cumbersome. The Girl is obsessed with and eventually possessed by the shoes; they force her to dance continually and relentlessly with demonic animation.
Of the four male actors (who make up the rest of the cast) I was entranced by Giles King as Lady Lydia, the eccentric cross-dressing compere. Oddly sexy and mischievous she/he reminded me of Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka but armed with a long fishing line, which turns the character into a cruel puppeteer.
The Red Shoes is at Battersea Arts Centre until 9 April, book here.