sun 23/09/2018

Edward Scissorhands, New Adventures, Sadler's Wells | reviews, news & interviews

Edward Scissorhands, New Adventures, Sadler's Wells

Edward Scissorhands, New Adventures, Sadler's Wells

A hearty dose of cheer, with just a little weirdness, from master storyteller Matthew Bourne

The all-American family as brought to you by Tim Burton and Matthew Bourne: Tom Davies, Tim Hodges, Dominic North and Madeleine Brennan in 'Edward Scissorhands'© Johan Persson

For those who’ve seen one too many Nutcrackers, nothing says Christmas better than a Matthew Bourne production at Sadler’s Wells. A man whose mantelpiece is overflowing with Tony and Olivier awards is a safe bet for entertainrment – even when the production in question looks at first glance unlikely: Bourne’s 2005 danced version of Edward Scissorhands, the 1990 Tim Burton movie which is part Gothic fairy tale, part moral fable, part 1950s soap opera.

From the first moments that the small pit orchestra strikes up, amplified to the max through huge banks of speakers and accompanied by crashes, flashes and bangs, it’s clear we’re in for a brisk, showy – and as it later turned out, snowy – ride. The programme contains no plot synopsis, but Bourne is such a confident storyteller that even those who, like me, have never seen the film, will have no problem understanding the plot: an inventor creates a man with scissors for hands, and dies of a heart attack before he can replace the metal appendages with real ones, leaving his creation to wander into pastel-coloured suburbia and suffer the suspicion, as well as the kindness, of its all-American inhabitants.

Barrel turns with ten-inch scissor hands must have given the health and safety people conniptions

Bourne veteran Dominic North is an excellent, touching Edward, keeping the emotional heart of the story on track with his likeable demeanour, and displaying impressive dance skills despite his difficult costume (barrel turns with ten-inch scissor hands must have given the health and safety people conniptions). Much of the fun comes from the lurid, technicolour array of suburbanites with whom Edward interacts. Gently satirical portraits of recognisable types – polished politicos, desperate housewives, and their jock and nerd children – they’re richly brought to life by the talented dance-actors of New Adventures, who all seem to be having a marvellous time.

Terry Davies, using themes from Danny Elfman’s original movie soundtrack, has woven a cinematic orchestral score, plentifully laced with smoochy woodwind, heart-tugging violins and sentimental (recorded) choral colour, that does a fine job of keeping the story moving and giving the dancers plenty to get on down to. Bourne’s Broadway talents are more than evident in the upbeat, boogie- and jive-influenced group dances that punctuate the piece, and the cast sparkle in them, perhaps slightly more than in some of the slow numbers, where a ballet-inflected dance vocabulary is realised with less than balletic precision.

Lez Brotherston’s set and costume design supplies treat after treat, to rival any other Christmas show you might see this year: a delightfully wonky Wendy-house town made to seem bigger by clever perspective, Edward’s semi-steampunk, body-con leather suit, magical snowfalls, an enormous Christmas tree, and – oh, how I loved this! – topiary ballet dancers who really dance. The inventive and enchanting array of 1950s costumes (each of the 25 named characters seemed to have at least three costume changes) was also a joy, and the dedicated costume team that created them must come in for honourable mention, since it must be a heck of a job to keep track of them all.

New Adventures in Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands
Let all this talk of cheerful set-dressing not deceive you, however: while Edward Scissorhands is in some ways a fairy tale about kindness and acceptance, it’s no happy-ending Ugly Duckling. Edward’s acceptance in suburbia is contingent on the ability of the townspeople to keep their prejudices in check, and his tentative romance with sweet cheerleader Kim (Ashley Shaw) is always under threat from her jock boyfriend, mean-spirited bullyboy Jim Upton (Tom Clark). The escalation of events towards the end – against the suitably seasonal backdrop of the town Christmas ball (pictured, above) – is genuinely discomforting, and the outcome far from cheerful, plotwise. Dampened spirits were not, however, evident in the audience – on the contrary, rapturous enthusiasm was the order of the day. Bourne has done more subtle work, maybe, but this highly entertaining show will certainly add a splash of colour to a dark winter evening.

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