We chat to Walthamstow’s dance icon Sir Matthew Bourne

PUBLISHED: 09:42 14 January 2020

Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne


Sir Matthew Bourne is one of dance’s greatest storytellers. He talks to Holly Louise Eells about the return of his double Oliver award-winning show, living in Walthamstow and why he won’t stop doing the job he loves

A Walthamstow treasure, Sir Matthew Bourne is widely recognised as the UK's most successful choreographer and director.

For over 30 years he has been creating and directing dance for musicals, theatre and film as well as his own highly successful, award-winning companies, and is the creator of the world's longest-running ballet production, Swan Lake.

Since I last spoke to the inspirational choreographer, more than five years ago, his fistful of awards and momentous achievements seem to have doubled, and to add to the mix, a knighthood too.

'There are so many now, it is crazy to be honest,' explains Matthew.

'I suppose you can't beat a knighthood, can you? It is so special and very unexpected. I know some people who can be blasé about it, but I am not going to be one of those people,' he adds with a smile.

Of course, there will be the countless perks, but I had to ask him, has anything else changed since becoming a knight of the realm?

Matthew Bourne's THE RED SHOES. Adam Cooper 'Boris Lermontov' and Ashley Shaw 'Vicky Page'. Photo by Johan PerssonMatthew Bourne's THE RED SHOES. Adam Cooper 'Boris Lermontov' and Ashley Shaw 'Vicky Page'. Photo by Johan Persson

'Interestingly it makes me much more of a spokesperson for my profession,' he says. 'You become a spokesperson for the world you are in and for me that is the dance world.

'You get asked to be a patron for a lot of things and it is another way to serve the world that has been good to you. That is the way I see it.'

Since being knighted in 2016, local opportunities have arisen, which has seen Matthew revisiting his Essex roots. 'My parents lived in my family home in Walthamstow until they died, so since then I didn't really have a reason to go back.

'However, a few years ago my old primary school, William Pitt, and my old secondary school, Sir George Monoux College, got in touch with me. I have done projects with them, tours and there is a theatre named after me at the college now.'

He adds: 'It was really special returning to my old schools to see how they have changed and that the arts is thriving there. I hope that can continue in schools as it is so important.'

The prolific choreographer continues: 'Look what I have managed to do with my life. You need that encouragement when you are young and I am very keen for this to be happening in schools and it is something I am really passionate about.'

Matthew Bourne's THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Vicky Page'.  Photo by Johan PerssonMatthew Bourne's THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Vicky Page'. Photo by Johan Persson

It is evident Sir Matthew has inspired a generation to dance, with a prolific portfolio including five honorary doctorates, countless awards and being a proud patron to several organisations.

In addition to being a highly-respected choreographer, Matthew supports the wider dance industry and its future. Adding to the phenomenal list, he has been artistic director of New Adventures, the most successful and busiest dance company in the UK, since 1987.

New Adventures is the resident company at Sadler's Wells Theatre, aiming to build audiences for dance across the UK and to provide extensive employment as well as career development opportunities for dancers, musicians and other theatre professionals.

Matthew says: 'It is a privilege to have a company, which I do not take lightly. I wake up every morning, grateful that I am still doing what I do. I feel very satisfied in what I have achieved so far and it is a nice feeling as well.'

Matthew adds: 'That doesn't mean you can just sit back, you still want the show to be even better than the one before. If you are happy just to sit back, you may as well retire and stop. I decided fairly recently I am going to keep going until someone tells me to stop.'

Matthew has created new audiences for dance with groundbreaking work both at home and internationally including Nutcracker!, Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Car Man, Edward Scissorhands, Dorian Gray and Sleeping Beauty.

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page' and Dominic North 'Julian Craster'. Photo by Johan Persson (1)THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page' and Dominic North 'Julian Craster'. Photo by Johan Persson (1)

Last Christmas saw the return of his double Olivier award-winning show, The Red Shoes.

'I'm proud that for nearly 20 years, New Adventures has built an unprecedented audience for dance throughout the UK, and for this national tour of The Red Shoes we will play over 200 performances across 21 leading regional large-scale theatres, more than any other UK dance company.

'We have an audience who are fiercely loyal, questioning and open-minded, and as ever, I am grateful for their trust and enthusiastic support.'

A sell-out before its world premiere season opened in 2016, Matthew Bourne's triumphant adaptation of the legendary film returns in 2019, having won two Olivier Awards and dazzled audiences across the UK and the USA.

It is a tale of obsession, possession and one girl's dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Victoria Page lives to dance, but her ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion.

Set to the achingly romantic music of golden-age Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann, The Red Shoes is orchestrated by Terry Davies and played by the New Adventures Orchestra, with cinematic designs by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Paul Groothuis and projection design from Duncan McLean.

The Red Shoes - Ashley Shaw as Victoria PageThe Red Shoes - Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page

'I'm thrilled that for the first revival of our 2016 hit, The Red Shoes, most of the original leading cast will be returning including Ashley Shaw in her multi award-winning performance as Victoria Page.

'Along with several New Adventures rising stars, who will be performing in the production for the first time, I'm particularly excited to be re-united with my original Swan, the wonderful Adam Cooper, who joins us for the first time in 20 years.'

He adds: 'Someone once said to me, "It is like watching an old movie on stage." The drama, romance, something to make you laugh - all the elements I try to cover in all the pieces that I do.

'This show is really something for everyone to enjoy.'

Find out more

The tour continues until June 2020 new-adventures.net

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