Edward Scissorhands @ Sadler’s Wells, London

Matthew Malthouse, Kerry Biggin, Scott Ambler, Madelaine Brennan, Ross Carpenter, Cindy Corinne Ciunfrini, Caroline Crawley, Lauriane Delteil, Gavin Eden, Bethany Elliott, Vicky Evans, Ross Fountain, Aaron Francis, Adam Galbraith, Hazel Gold, Nina Goldman, Phil Hill, Timothy Hodges, Jack Jones, Steve Kirkham, Dena Lague, Dominic Lamb, Rachel Lancaster, Etta Murfitt, Chris Neumann, Dominic North, Gavin Persand, Samuel Plant, Danny Reubens, Noi Tolmer, Shelby Williams, Daniel Wright

directed by
Matthew Bourne
Since Matthew Bourne’s already legendary company, New Adventures, was established in 2002, it has toured seven major shows throughout the world.

This Christmas and New Year, Sadler’s Wells has once more given over its main theatre to the group’s production of Edward Scissorhands, a dance piece devised over six years following Bourne’s own love affair with Tim Burton’s film.

Edward Scissorhands is the typically Burton-esque story of a man created by a scientist, who dies prematurely, leaving his creation with long scissors in place of hands.

This man, Edward, is simultaneously loved for his novelty value, feared for being different and potentially dangerous, and isolated from others by his inability to hold anyone close.

The strength of Bourne’s staging lay in its attention to detail, in its characterisations, and in its visual effects.
For example, as Edward was created, the staging enabled us to see each limb come to life, one by one, as it was attached to his torso. Similarly, as the robbers invaded the scientist’s house, leading to his death, the formations they made as they ran around were far from uniform, but highly structured and very effective.

The choreography and set, by regular Bourne collaborator Lez Brotherston, helped to capture the atmosphere of a 1950s American suburb. As figures emerged from the doors of disproportionately small houses, it was easy to spot the various characters: the floosie with the sexually repressed husband, the cool kids, and the upstanding family whose father was running for election.

The music was nothing special from a technical viewpoint, but it supported the drama well, creating the effect of rushing movement that was so often required, and frequently including jazz. The real joy was that Terry Davies developed the music from Danny Elfman’s original motion picture score so that the film’s central theme frequently recurred. This was effective, partly because the original music is emotive anyway, and partly because hearing it felt like meeting an old friend.

Bourne’s contemporary choreography also failed to shine in its own right. It got the job done without being particularly striking or memorable. The dream scene that saw Edward (Matthew Malthouse) dance with his love, Kim (Kerry Biggin), for once without his scissorhands, also seemed a missed opportunity to insert a classical ballet sequence.

As a result, Malthouse and Biggin never got to demonstrate the extent of their skills as dancers, although they delivered what their parts demanded of them well. Malthouse, in particular, captured Edward’s melancholic and sensitive nature, without seeming half as soppy as Johnny Depp in the film.

In the second half the production lost its way, leaving supposedly captivating scenes, such as where Edward sculpts an angel from ice, feeling overblown. In the film, there is a clear narrative arc where things get better and better for Edward throughout the first half, before an event in the middle sends everything snowballing the other way until most of the town want him dead. Here, it was less effective to see Edward’s popularity and vulnerability presented in almost equal measure throughout, before witnessing just one event leading to his downfall a mere ten minutes from the end.

As Kim said her final farewell to Edward before her ‘evil’ boyfriend appeared, it felt like Siegfried’s last moments with Odette before the arrival of Baron von Rothbart in Swan Lake. Again, however, it fell flat, and this time because Davies’ music could not quite support the occasion like Tchaikovsky’s.

Nevertheless, only the coldest of hearts could not have been moved as the snow fell on stage and audience alike during the curtain call. For all of its weaker aspects, this Edward Scissorhands is a visually spectacular and quality piece, but it is still ultimately a case of style over substance. Since there is so much to merit it within that, it hardly matters, but I never believed I would ever say that about a Matthew Bourne production.

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