REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s ‘Edward Scissorhands’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, January 2024

 

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?

 

Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands. Kim Boggs (Katrina Lyndon) and Edward (Liam Mower) dance together.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, January 2024

 

Can I have your attention please? Uplifting musical Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World leaves theatregoers of all ages walking taller and humming toe-tapping tunes.

The production, which is based on a non-fiction picture book by suffragette descendant Kate Pankhurst, is bringing inspiring women to the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Dramatist Chris Bush and songwriters Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo have creatively honoured the legacy of some of the world’s most iconic women by giving them bold and insightful words to say and a great pop soundtrack to sing.

Eleven-year-old protagonist Jade is visiting the local museum on a school trip with her classmates. Jade tends to be one of the “quiet children” teachers sing the praises of (those children that “never get detention”). Unfortunately, what this often means is that Jade frequently ends up being invisible and insignificant (as such children “don’t require attention”). Her teachers easily forget about her, while her parents’ impending divorce has left her feeling voiceless and powerless.

When she is inadvertently deserted by her harried teachers, Jade stumbles across the Gallery of Greatness, which is not yet open to the public. This wing of the museum pays homage to some of the most amazing women from history. As something of a lost soul, Jade doubts that she will ever make her mark on the world like those fantastic women did.

Fortunately, this entire show is a vibrant lesson in herstory (history from a female perspective) and self-belief. As soon as Jade slips into the out-of-bounds space it bursts into energetic life to empower her to be part of the movement and recognise her own greatness. Through a series of upbeat musical encounters, she gets to know an all-singing, all-dancing sisterhood of wise – and wisecracking – wonder women. And learns that “there is no such thing as an ordinary woman”.

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, the musical. Inquisitive schoolgirl Jade ventures into the out-of-bounds Gallery of Greatness during a school trip to the local museum.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Cinderella’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2023

 

You can always rely on a pantomime to magic up a happily ever after and Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre does so with fabulous fairy flair.

This year’s seasonal spectacular is an energetic, enchanting and entertaining romp through Cinders’ rags-to-riches tale. Thanks to the tried-and-tested panto format and the fun-filled, fairy-powered script, audience and cast members alike are guaranteed to have a ball at every performance throughout the show’s Christmas 2023 run.

Fairy 312, a failing fairy in training, will only earn her wings and graduate to fairy godmother status if she can ensure Cinderella is swept off her feet by Prince Charming. Cue a wave of a wand and a sprinkling of wonder and wit! Along the way, theatregoers of all ages get to delight in side-splitting silliness, upbeat songs, lively dancing, colourful costumes and spellbinding special effects.

 

Sarah Vaughan and James Darch as Cinderella and Prince Charming in Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2023.

 

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REVIEW: ‘The Drifters Girl’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, October 2023

 

Talented performers drift through sensational songs in The Drifters Girl, a disconcerting jukebox musical that strives to tell the story of an ever-changing line-up of singers.

The story, which is a frustratingly surface-level affair, follows headstrong southern girl Faye. She marries The Drifters’ manager, George Treadwell, and then sets about transforming the fluctuating band of rhythm-and-blues vocalists into a flourishing brand. When George unexpectedly dies, Faye Treadwell finds herself fighting to be taken seriously as one of the first female African American managers in a sexist and racist industry.

Faye relays her experiences from 1954 onwards to her daughter (credited as ‘Girl’ but essentially a bare-bones outline of real-life Faye’s daughter Tina Treadwell, who was consulted throughout the musical’s writing and development process). The entire narrative is basically Faye explaining what she did and why ahead of a court case to secure copyright of the ‘Drifters’ name.

The show tasks just six cast members with transporting an audience to the era of classic soul and charting the trailblazing efforts of a strong black woman who refused to give up on the group she loved. Disappointingly, with only four men portraying a dizzying succession of singers and assorted supporting characters, trudging along on the Treadwell treadmill soon gets tedious.

 

The Drifters Girl. Four men in smart blue suits perform as a vocal group. They are watched by a young girl who is sitting on the floor in front of them.

 

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REVIEW: ‘2:22 A Ghost Story’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, October 2023

 

More human than horror, 2:22 A Ghost Story harnesses the power of suggestion to serve up a satisfying synergy of supernatural intrigue and social commentary.

This tense but thoughtful play, which will be thrilling audiences at Milton Keynes Theatre all week, has set pulses racing meaningfully enough to become a global phenomenon since its premiere in 2021. It haunted five West End theatres in total, with record-breaking seasons and star casting at each, and there have also been productions in Los Angeles and Australia.

The overwhelmingly positive response to writer Danny Robins’ first ever play is understandable. Sharp writing and stellar acting bring a spirited relationship drama to life. Then spooky goings-on add to the laughs and suspense. As a theatregoer, you settle into your seat in the buzzing auditorium expecting to be scared. However, what really keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the show is witnessing – and experiencing – humanity’s burning desire to make sense of things.

 

2:22 A Ghost Story. Nathaniel Curtis as Sam and Louisa Lytton as Jenny. He is comforting her as she sits in an armchair looking scared.

 

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