Stage Scissorhands Is Slick And Sharp

By Sam Smith Last edited 42 months ago
Stage Scissorhands Is Slick And Sharp ★★★★☆ 4

Oh, what style! Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands appears at Sadler's Wells this Christmas and New Year (c) Johan Persson

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

This Christmas and New Year, Sadler’s Wells has given its main theatre over to Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands, a dance piece inspired by the choreographer’s own love affair with the Tim Burton film.

As everyone knows, Edward Scissorhands is the story of a human created by a scientist who dies prematurely, leaving his creation with long scissors in place of hands. The circumstances under which Edward comes about are slightly altered in Bourne’s version, but the subject matter remains unaltered. The piece is about a man who 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 show’s strength lies in its slickness, its attention to detail in its characterisations, and its visual effects. For example, as Edward is created the staging enables us to see each limb come to life, one by one, as it is attached to his torso.

The dancing and set help to capture the atmosphere of a 1950s American suburb. Figures emerge from the doors of disproportionately small houses and set the audience people watching. It soon becomes easy to make out the floozie with the sexually repressed husband, the cool bad kids, and the trim upstanding family whose father is running for election.

Bourne’s skill lies in his ability to think of the gesture that a character might believably adopt, and then to exaggerate this in order to produce eye catching movement. This manifests itself as two figures rise out of their deckchairs at a barbecue, and as a group reveal that they are carol singers through their visual rather than oral output. It is also interesting to see how Bourne generates dramatic interest. When Edward dances while drunk at a party another figure joins him before being reprimanded by his girlfriend, which both enhances the visual effect and emphasises the relationships inherent in the scenario.

The real joy of the music is that Terry Davies developed it from Danny Elfman’s original motion picture score so that the film’s central theme frequently recurs. This is effective, partly because the original music is emotive anyway, and partly because hearing it feels like meeting an old friend.

The modern dance (though there are more than a few nods to classical ballet within it) is executed well by the ensemble cast. This is led by Dominic North as Edward who is brilliant at capturing the figure’s melancholic and sensitive nature, and by Ashley Shaw as Kim (the girl who falls for him) who proves an amazing mover.

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 is less effective to see Edward’s popularity and vulnerability presented in almost equal measure throughout, before witnessing just one event leading to his downfall about ten minutes from the end.

As a result, Edward Scissorhands may ultimately be a case of style over substance, but since there is so much to merit it within this it hardly matters. Indeed, when at the end snow falls on stage and audience alike, only the coldest of hearts could fail to feel a tingle or two running down the spine.

Until 11 January at Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN with start times of 14.00, 14.30, 19.00 and 19.30 (depending on the day). Casts vary over the run. For further details and tickets (£12-55) visit the Sadler’s Wells website.

Londonist received a complimentary ticket and programme from Raw PR.  

Last Updated 11 December 2014