sat 20/04/2024

Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells review - a true Christmas treat, witty and beguiling | reviews, news & interviews

Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells review - a true Christmas treat, witty and beguiling

Edward Scissorhands, Sadler's Wells review - a true Christmas treat, witty and beguiling

Matthew Bourne's endearing hero returns with added poignancy

Hedge fun: Katrina Lyndon as Kim Boggs in the topiary fantasy sceneImages - Johann Persson

The story of Edward Scissorhands may not seem an obvious Christmas subject, but it couldn’t be a more overt call for goodwill to all men. And there’s a hint of The Nutcracker about Matthew Bourne’s dance version, too.

Created in 2005 and last seen in 2014, the piece is his Sadler’s Wells seasonal treat this year, and it’s more witty and beguiling than ever before, fine-tuned for today’s world, despite its age. 

The staple ingredients of the piece, adapted for New Adventures by Caroline Thompson from her screenplay for Tim Burton’s 1990 film, are the familiar ones: a sunny 1950s suburban town of little boxes and self-congratulatory cheery citizens, with a gothic mansion on a hill outside town and a grave in the cemetery marked “Edward” – the young son of an inventor who we see struck dead by lightning. Edward Scissorhands is the father’s attempt to resurrect him.

The forces in this town that confront Edward (excellent Stephen Murray, pictured bottom, at my visit, who is sharing the role with Bourne stalwart Liam Mower), who is taken in by kindly Peg Boggs (Etta Murfitt) when she finds him scavenging in her dustbins, are hardy perennials: the strutting group of jerks in lettermen jackets, led by Jim, the mayor’s son and would-be boyfriend of pony-tailed cheerleader Kim Boggs (Katrina Lyndon); the goth kids, who, amusingly, are the offspring of a sinister-looking vicar; the nerdy guy who keeps trying to fit in, despite dressing as a pumpkin. 

But there is a poignancy to the story I didn’t feel so emphatically on previous visits. Maybe the current curdling of American politics has made the predominantly white Hope Springs folk more of a reminder of the dangerous imbalances in this kind of conformist community, where the oddball is seen as a threat. Edward’s desire to belong, especially to Kim, takes on added urgency. There’s also a new swagger to the tone here and there: dId the town’s predatory cougar Joyce Monroe (Nicole Kabera) ride a bucking washing machine with such great pleasure in the original? And when did the jaunty male couple the Gaibrights and their baby son move to Hope Springs?

Ben Brown and Katrina Lyndon in Edward ScissorhandsThe joy of a Bourne piece, especially this one, is the way his individual characters, even the minor ones, arrive onstage totally in focus, each with distinctive costuming and makeup and an established personality. Their moves, a perfectly judged blend of the simple and the quirky, always add to the narrative: a caper here, a head flick there. The sinister Evercreeches move in eerie, lizard-like ways, Judas the dad regularly staring malevolently at the audience. As Jim, Ben Brown (pictured above, left with Katrina Lyndon) is athletic and agile, like his character, and leaves you wanting more of his ability to dance on inline skates. And the Christmas ball couples dancing at exactly the same odd angle to each other, a typical Bourne touch, are a particular delight.

Edward, though, is the superstar of this show, one of Bourne’s greatest choreographic creations: part Little Tramp, part Frankenstein’s monster, both familiar and mysterious. The role requires the dancer tn his tight leather-look costume to shuffle along, heel down first, and to negotiate the whole role, barring one romantic hands-free duet, with multiple pairs of scissors at the end of his arms. But these blades become an extension of his character, flicking as his emotions are stirred up, handy for giving an enemy a one-blade salute or serving toasted marshmallows. With ultimate ingenuity, Bourne even creates a breathtaking scissors-on final duet for Edward and Kim, difficult lifts and all. Murray is pitch-perfect in the part.

Edward’s attempts to fit into the social system of Hope Springs are doomed, of course, however much he endearingly tries to mimic the gestures of the townsfolk. Even when he becomes a media star, he is still essentially alien, driven by unique desires, one of them being to fashion topiary with his nifty scissors out of all the local hedges (dogs and heads of hair too). But then he turns his blades on the municipal Christmas tree, and his fate is sealed. Stephen Murray as Edward ScissorhandsThis is a visually beautiful staging, with sets and costumes by the estimable Lez Brotherston, that uses big-screen projections of stormy clouds or starry skies for maximum impact. As usual, there are simple touches used to big effect, such as the moment when the cheerleader poster of Kim Boggs “comes alive” as she and her two cronies dance behind a scrim. Especially lovely is the fantasy scene – this production’s equivalent of The Nutcracker’s Kingdom of the Sweets – where Edward and Kim visit a topiary world of hedge-figures dancing like a well drilled corps, and his scissors briefly disappear.

The cherry on this delicious cake is its live music, adapted from Danny Elfman’s film score by Terry Davies. The swooning but ever so slightly ironic main theme, with its vocalising chorus, never fails to sweep you along; but there’s also a perky Booker T-ish organ sound for the lettermen’s moves, sardonic trumpet mwah-mwahs for the Gaibrights, rich saxophone solos for the cheerleaders, a presto duelling section for Edward v Jim. For each musical line, Bourne has devised a dance move, if only for the shaking of a ketchup bottle.

The final tableau would melt the hardest heart: the older lady who introduced proceedings is now unmasked as the ageing Kim, still lovingly caressing the shears from Edward’s arm that she managed to keep when he left. And in the backdrop, the silhouette of Edward appears, arms out like a scarecrow’s, blades hanging down from them, and giving that distinctive sideways tip of the head. Magical.

The cherry on this delicious cake is its live music, adapted from Danny Elfman's film score

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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