Review by Raphael Kohn
I adore Tim Burton’s 1990 classic gothic fantasy film Edward Scissorhands as much as the next person. There’s something chillingly disturbing, yet oddly charming and heartwarming, about its twisted parable of acceptance and inclusion of others who may not look exactly like us. Yet I’d not have had it pegged as ideal material for ballet or dance-theatre myself. Truly, Matthew Bourne’s 2005 production, brought to life on this new UK tour, proves me wrong in spades… or in blades, maybe.
Burton’s trademark twisted style is never far away in Bourne’s staging, with the dance staying largely faithful to the narrative and tone of the film. The narrative itself, originally penned by Caroline Thompson and Tim Burton and adapted for the stage by Thompson, is the same one we all know and love from the film; a young boy is brought to life with scissor blades for fingers, treated as an outcast from society, falls in love, and begins to integrate into the world – though not without resistance.
Yet it never feels as if this is just a repetition of the film, despite the visual similarities and the use of Danny Elfman’s original score, augmented by new music and arrangements by Terry Davies. Halfway between ballet and dance-theatre, Edward Scissorhands manages to feel simultaneously fresh yet familiar, with the detail of Bourne’s direction ensuring each character has a moment to shine and that glimmers of comedy shine through.
It's not easy making comedy without speech. But ranging from visual gags involving a camp pair of gay dads, a sultry seductress and, of course, Edward’s own physical clumsiness, the piece is constantly engaging and entertaining from start to finish. Add to that a genius sprinkle of illusions, with characters appearing, disappearing, and somehow materialising out of nowhere, and it makes for something truly amazing.
Of course, it’s a dance show at heart, and while I might have hoped for more dance in what is closer to silent theatre at times, Bourne’s choreography is expectedly a winner. There are fabulous setpieces for the tight, switched-on ensemble who give their all throughout, especially a most visually striking sequence involving topiaries (those who have seen the film will know exactly what I’m talking about), sending chills down the spines of all in the auditorium. Likewise, the beautiful if brief duet involving Edward and his love interest Kim in front of an ice sculpture is a joy.
Liam Mower performed the role of Edward on opening night, and he justified the company’s confidence in him brilliantly. No stranger to the role – he’s performed it since 2014 – he nails the awkward physicality and quizzical expression to a point. It could have come off unnatural, and a touch strange, to have such a heavy and clumsy physicality in dance, but Mower manages to make the role feel real. A great lead dancer, Ashley Shaw’s Kim exudes delicacy and grace in every step she takes.
None of this would really work without Lez Brotherston’s gorgeous scenery, with sets galore to bring us into the world of Edward Scissorhands. Each meticulously detailed, yet never obstructive to the action, it is a visual delight. Similarly, Howard Harrison’s lighting design, and especially Duncan McLean’s gorgeous video and projection design, always adding value and never being pointless or unnecessary, are simply divine.
It's sharp, it’s smart and it’s a feast for the eyes – Edward Scissorhands truly is a stunner from Bourne. Sometimes there’s a reason why works from almost two decades ago are revived – Bourne’s production proves this by its very existence.
Edward Scissorhands plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 10th February 2024, then touring. Tickets for the tour available from https://new-adventures.net/edward-scissorhands#overview.
Photos by Johan Persson