Devised, Directed and Choreographed by Matthew Bourne
New Adventures, Martin McCallum and Marc Platt Production Companies
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, and touring
A ballet of Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton's 1990 cult classic, may seem a strange thought to those who grew up with foggy memories of this Frankenstein-esque creation from Christmasses in their childhoods. The ambiguity as to whether the production is to be a musical (as it's billed) or a ballet (as Bourne's other works) added to the sense of mystery around what turned out to be a frenetic and packed production.
Edward purists may be disappointed, in that Bourne's adaptation of the film is only loosely based on Burton's plot. Less reliance is put on faithfully translating the actual events that take place in the film to the stage, with more attention given to capturing the spirit and fusing it with Bourne's signature style dance.
Although the atmosphere created by Edward is very much identical to that evoked by the film, the weakness of staging the show in this manner is that, whereas on screen the characters of Edward's sleepy SoCal suburb were able to take advantage of close-ups and one-shots within larger crowd scenes, on stage there is more going on at any given point than a person can reasonably be expected to take in in one viewing. Is this a shrewd move toward ensuring repeat audiences, or an approach meant to mimic Edward's presumed sense of confusion in this new world?
Some iconic scenes are missing, while the motivating factor behind the story (a grandmother telling her grandchild about how snow came into the world) isn't given room - instead, Bourne has created a new myth for the 'generation of Edward' involving a magical pair of scissors. It doesn't quite fit, but then again, having watched the film a few times it was difficult to get Burton's signature style out of my head. Those who're unfamiliar with the film will likely find the new version to be as neat and self-contained as it was on screen.
After seeing the sheer innovation of the choreography in Play Without Words, what did strike me in viewing Edward Scissorhands is how difficult it was to appreciate the actual dancing. A lot of it felt more Broadway than Ballet, and although the skill of the dancers in Edward isn't up for debate - they're all marvelous - it all seemed to be playing things a little too safe, rather than captivating the viewer as Play Without Words did.
Despite these minor quibbles, the quality of the production is extremely high, and given a choice of an old classic or this new production, I'd recommend Edward Scissorhands without a second thought.
Philip Fisher reviewed the original production at Sadler's Wells and David Chadderton saw it later in the tour at The Lowry, Salford and Peter Lathan reviewed to towards the end of the tour at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody