edward scissorhands

Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

TIM Burton and Matthew Bourne have much in common; both have extraordinary imagination, the former to create the Southern Californian Gothic fantasy film of Edward Scissorhands and the latter to reimagine it as dance theatre.

The film celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and the dance its 10th and both appear as fresh as the day they were created.

Bourne’s version has a start more akin to Mary Shelly than Burton, bodies jolted into life with a mix of lightning and 13 amp plugs in the inventor’s crumbling gothic pile.

The inventor, unlike the incomparable Vincent Price in the film, making a boy as the ultimate robot, has his own tragic tale and a dead son, Edward, setting the scene for what is to come.

And what is to come is a stunning piece of storytelling through dance. If you know the film there are differences, as there has to be, for a start this is not dance karaoke, it is a different telling of the same tale. And dancing on stage does not have the benefit of cinematic close ups, imaginative camera angles, instant, innumerable scene changes and special effects.

If you don’t know the film then this is still a piece that stands in its own right, all you lose is comparison and you are left with a fantasy tale that is easy enough to follow.

Essentially it is the story of a boy who is different, with knives and scissors where hands should be, who is found frightened and alone and is taken in by the Boggs family where he is first raised up as a novelty hero by small town America and then just as quickly dashed down by mob rule and prejudice.

And through it all we see a love story develop between Edward and the teenage daughter of the family who have taken him in, Kim Boggs.

Edward, danced on opening night by Dominic North, is a huge, demanding role; he is on stage for most of the two hours, with the added problem of the contents of a cutlery drawer stuck on each hand. He shows us a touching innocence mixed wth a fear of the unknown and dread of seeiming or acting different. There is panic when he cannot understand what is going on and and flashes of anger when he tries to protect Kim. With fixed expression and stilted movement it is all in the acting and dancing, and that is where North excelled.

Australian Ashley Shaw, a graduatedward and kime of Birmingham’s Elmshurst School of Dance incidentally, produces a lovely Kim who is the girlfriend of  Hope Springs High School’s overbearing pain in the butt Jim Upton, son of the local bigwigs, danced by Tom Clark.

Jim is the typical, swaggerng nasty piece of work every American high school in TV or film seems to have (central casting must have a whole shelf of them), bullying and cruelly teasing Edward, and eventually engineering his downfall. It is a role Clark plays well, appearing popular in public yet with a meaner side when alone with Kim or Edward.

Edward and Kim, ill-fated lovers in their final doomed dance as an angry mob descend upon them

Our doomed lovers, the girl next door, or next bedroom in this case, and the boy with knives and scissors for hands, have two lovely dance duets, the first a fantasy amid dancing topiary bushes when Edward appears with real hands and the second, a tender, moving finale in their final moments together as the ill-fated pair.

There is good support from the rest of the Boggs family, Mum Peg. Etta Murfitt, dad Bill, Tim Hodges and son Kevin, Tom Davies. Etta also provides the old woman who, along with her memories, opens and closes the show, she is also responsible for staging and is one of the two resident directors. Busy lady.

Then there is sex on legs, man hunter Joyce Monroe, the wife who even gives unfaithful a bad name. She is a woman after anything in, or indeed out of trousers and who sees Edward as a challenge she just cannot resist, which leaves our hollow ground handed hero in a blind panic. She is danced with wonderfully over the top slutty seduction by Madelaine Brennan.

There is also excellent support from the rest of the 27 strong cast who give us everything from high school pupils to TV reporters.

Bourne’s long time design collaborator Lez Brotherston has created, as we have come to expect, splendid sets and costumes with a dingy pastel shaded collection of houses clustered around a hill which is almost a cartoon California suburb, along with some quick changes for bedrooms, gardens, gothic pile and cemetery to help keep up the sort of pace director Matthew Bourne creates with his choreography.

Cleverly the scenes front of curtain, while changes vanish and appear from the wings and flies, appear natural and part of the story, rather than fillers for scene shifting, which all helps to keep the natural rythym flowing.

Music is from Terry Davies based on Danny Elfman’s original film score

There have inevitably been a few tweaks to Bourne’s original, good ideas at the time made better, bad ideas made good as the piece has evolved and the final verdict on the new production came from a well-deserved standing ovation for North and then the rest of the cast at the end as a snowstorm fluttered down on the audience to add a final flourish to a glorious night’s entertainment. To 14-02-15.

Roger Clarke

10-02-15

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