Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands uses clear-cut narrative dance to tenderly show the value of an outstretched hand.
The whimsical dance–theatre production of Tim Burton’s classic film is delighting audiences at Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Cutting straight to the point, if you are yet to experience a Bourne ballet this ode to acceptance is an especially accessible offering to start with. Chop chop though, performances by Sir Matthew’s New Adventures company inevitably sell out.
Edward Scissorhands is a story that dances between ordinary human happenings and a fantasy existence. Young Edward dies after being struck by lightning while holding a pair of scissors. His distraught father, who is an inventor, devotes himself to bringing Edward back to life. Devastatingly, the dedicated dad suffers a fatal heart attack before he can complete his handiwork and leaves behind a lonely boy who has dangerous blades instead of dexterous fingers.
Kindly townswoman Peg Boggs discovers Edward and invites him to stay with her family in the suburban haven of Hope Springs. However, the well-meaning community struggles to see past Edward’s curious appearance. Will Edward, the ultimate outsider, find his place and gain the residents’ acceptance?
Edward Scissorhands is not the most substantial of all the stories that Matthew Bourne has reimagined in his distinctive dance–drama dialect. (The New Adventures repertoire includes Nutcracker!, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Red Shoes and Romeo and Juliet). Nonetheless, under Bourne’s guiding hand the scenario inspires a magical, meaningful and moving production.
This character-driven show boldly incorporates key themes of our humanity – from creation, individuality and love to rejection and discrimination. It beautifully portrays a romance and generates a kaleidoscope of emotions. It brilliantly demonstrates that fitting in is overrated.
Edward is an unfinished humanoid who has been separated from his creator. His pale face features wounds accidentally inflicted by his own spiky hands. He is scared of everything, yet he scares everyone he encounters. Stephen Murray is incredibly compelling in this idiosyncratic role. A stilted walk and a pained, puzzled expression carry him through Edward’s clumsy attempts to make sense of his surroundings. As Edward grows in confidence, his stiff posture loosens up – he even starts his own dance craze! He showcases a talent for topiary and styles outrageous hairdos for people and poodles. However, that otherworldly, childlike innocence remains, which ultimately makes his tale more tragic.
Kim Boggs, Peg’s daughter, captures Edward’s attention and he becomes sweetly fascinated by her. Katrina Lyndon is lyrical and sincere as Kim, who is the quintessential girl next door. The relationship between Edward and Kim is the catalyst for many of the most inventively staged moments. He pretends that photographs of her come to life, so a trio of cheerleaders appear in a vision. He yearns to hold her hand, so imagines himself whirling, weaving and waltzing with her through a giddy garden of living sculptures. He must say a final farewell, so skilful, sensitive partnering enables her to soar onto his shoulders without being grazed by his blades.
The weird and wonderful residents of Hope Springs – a pastel-perfect town in 1950s America – vie for attention in lively, light-hearted, laugh-out-loud scenes. Families open the front doors of their neatly arranged houses, step outside, enthusiastically greet each other and animatedly go about their daily routines. Each family has its own signature colour palette and movement style, which makes the members’ kinship clear. The line-up includes the wholesome Boggs family, the pompous Upton family and the extremely religious Evercreech family.
Peg Boggs (Sophia Hurdley, warm and welcoming) spots Edward scavenging in the bins at twilight. There’s a brief, panic-stricken, copycat mirroring routine. But when he drops his scissorhands, so that they hang heavily by his sides, she is reassured that he does not intend to hurt her. Edward’s presence shocks Peg’s neighbours. He is bullied by a rabble of rebellious youths led by Kim’s boyfriend, Jim Upton (Benjamin Barlow Bazeley, full of swaggering self-importance and aggression). Chased by the town’s maneater (Nicole Kabera, boasting tigerish spirit as seductress Joyce Monroe). Given a wide berth by the reverend and his crucifix-carrying wife (Christina Rebecca Gibbs, warning of danger with expressive poise).
Every single member of the cast creates a memorable character – the attention to detail and dynamic energy is exceptional – and entertains with their response to, and interactions with, Edward. Cleverly, the dancers’ rich characterisation, Bourne’s stylish choreography, Terry Davies’ mood-enhancing music and Lez Brotherston’s enchanting set and costume designs all put variation into sharp focus. Edward is the most obvious misfit, but everyone in the town is ‘different’ somehow.
When I first saw this production, in 2015, I was touched by the emotive manner in which Edward’s tale was told through heartfelt dance and theatrical flair. My lasting impression was that, having been mesmerised by every slice of the playfully presented action, I would never look at a pair of scissors in the same way again. This riveting revival has left me feeling the same now.
Edward is scrutinised, fetishised and ostracised. We all know not to run with scissors; everyone accepts that, no questions asked. But for some reason it is much harder to impress upon us all that different does not mean less. So, be more. Be more you. Be more accepting of difference.
And be sure to carve out time to enjoy Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands. It is a must-see show.
Running time: Approximately 1 hour 55 minutes, including an interval.
*Production photography by Johan Persson.
This review is also featured on Total MK.
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.