A British theatre troupe is touring China this month, giving capacity audiences their first live taste of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes. Six performers from Kneehigh Theatre are staging four shows in Shanghai today and tomorrow. Starting on Thursday, they will stage another four in the People's Art Theatre in Beijing. The theatre group is performing the original version of the story rather than the film. The plot follows a vain girl who wears a pair of red shoes to church and is punished for her vanity by having to dance in them until they ruin her feet. The play has reduced audiences to tears. It includes more mime and dancing than dialogue, catering to a non-English-speaking audience. A British Council official said yesterday mainland audiences would enjoy The Red Shoes because the play blended modern theatre with tradition and required little English - although there would be subtitle screens. 'The work will connect with audiences, and especially young audiences,' said Michael O'Sullivan. 'The audiences we're looking for here welcome changes as well as tradition in theatre.' Drama professor Shen Lin said mainland audiences could easily relate to modern Western theatre. 'It's nice the British Council is becoming so adventurous,' said Professor Shen, director of the Central Academy of Drama's Institute for Studies in Theatre Arts. One Chinese theatre critic said the acting in a recent British version of Macbeth fell flat with local audiences. She was not sure how people would receive The Red Shoes. Kneehigh Theatre, a 20-year-old group from Cornwall in southwest England, has staged The Red Shoes in London and Edinburgh in Britain and in three other countries.