Review: New Adventures in Edward Scissorhands at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 2 Dec 08 - 18 Jan 09
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Thursday 11 December 2008

Perf: 9 December 2008

I last saw Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands at its premiere, three years ago. Since then, it has toured the world before returning home for this long Christmas season (it runs at Sadler’s Wells until 18 January). I still like it, and for all the reasons I did back in 2005. It’s a dance theatre version of Tim Burton’s film, which – although necessarily truncated – manages to retain a very strong linear narrative with the benefit of an added prologue to explain the circumstances of Edward’s creation: having lost his boy to a lightning strike whilst playing outside with scissors, an inventor constructs a new life form in his son’s image.

Bourne and his excellent creative team have faithfully recreated the style of the 1990 film, particularly in their portrayal of the middle-American town that Edward is forced to confront when the inventor’s death forces him from the hermitage of their decaying mansion. Les Brotherston’s designs are superb, especially the illusion he creates of a Desperate Housewives’ style American suburbia using height to convey depth. I suppose one could quibble that – the prologue’s debt to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein aside – the film’s balance of gothic and American kitsch is heavily skewed towards the latter.

Dominic North covered the role of Edward in a blanket of shy vulnerability, contrasting effectively with the brutish, superficial, sly men in his new and alien environment. It was a very different reading of the role from the one portrayed by Johnny Depp, less eccentric and overtly heroic, but creating this latter quality through simplicity of spirit and an innate desire to serve these strange, ungrateful people, irrespective of how they behave towards him. I think any interpretation of Edward Scissorhands will live or die on the quality of the person inhabiting the title role and in this case it was in very sensitive (and sharp!) hands.

The supporting cast is difficult to keep up with, especially in a rampant scene early in the first Act when a plethora of characters from the six local families (every one of them the regular nuclear 2 parents + 2 kids) are introduced at breakneck speed. Amongst these are Kim Boggs (played by the evergreen Kerry Biggin) who becomes Edward’s love interest, and a hilarious Hilary Clinton-inspired politician’s wife (Vicky Evans). It’s a bit of a whirl keeping up with all these characters although it is punctuated with plenty of humour from the Monroe parents – Nina Goldman as a predatory desperate housewife and Steve Kirkham reprising his role as her nerdy, suspicious husband.

The dance content is perhaps the least spectacular of all the creative ingredients although I enjoyed the Annual Christmas Ball ensemble sequence and the final pas de deux for Edward and Kim. What was clear from this 2008 iteration is that this is a tremendous Christmas story with an immense feelgood factor of old-fashioned goodness triumphing over the cynical and selfish traits of the human condition; ending in a literal winter wonderland explosion that covered the audience with snow-like foam at Edward’s curtain call. If you don’t mind a bit of temporary dampness, it’s just the ticket to banish the credit crunch blues.

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