Matthew Bourne’s eagerly awaited ballet version of Tim Burton’s 1990 movie proves to be as poignant and enchanting as the celluloid version. As one might expect from Bourne this is a strongly structured story ballet with witty individual character dancing, performed by the uniformly excellent ensemble of his New Adventures in Motion Pictures company. It is also a highly successful amalgam of fairy tale and social comment (as was the original film) and similarly subversive. But then subversion has been the dominant factor in Bourne’s opus from his first hit Swan Lake with male swans.
Edward Scissorhands‘ mixture of nursery story and incisive satire of the 1950’s clean cut American dream is mirrored in Terry Davies’ masterful arrangement of Danny Elfman’s lyrical and haunting original film score and pastiche of 50’s dance music as well as Lez Brotherton’s striking set and costume designs, giving the production a uniformity of expression.
Edward, a gentle young monster with large scissors for hands has been created by an old inventor, who dies accidentally when his creepy mansion is invaded one Halloween by teenagers from the nearby neighborhood. Lost and confused, Edward wanders into the residential area and is eventually taken in by the Boggs family. He gradually becomes accepted by the wealthy middle class community, having a facility for creating wonderful topiaries out of residents’ hedges and eventually becoming the neighborhood hairdresser and falling for their daughter Kim.
The central theme of the uneasy relationship between the outsider and the community is well presented by Bourne as are the concomitant ones of stifling social convention and innocence corrupted by social mores. Satirizing social mores and hypocrisy is Bourne’s metier as in his other movie adaptation (of Joseph Losey’s The Servant) the award winning Play Without Words where he satirizes swinging sixties London and its gay subculture. Similarly, detailed set pieces such as the Boggs’ barbecue, the Christmas dance and Edward’s hairdressing salon and types such as the neighborhood vamp (an outrageous Michaela Meazza) and the religious Evercreech family (a timely send-up of religious fundamentalism) provide the most entertaining moments of this production and reveal Bourne’s choreography at its most successful and sure. By contrast, he creates a breathtaking dream sequence for Edward and Kim (with a dancing topiary), reminiscent in its lyricism of Agnes de Mille’s dream ballet for Oklahoma.
The growing attraction between Kim and Edward is deftly handled in a charming manner and they are subtly portrayed by Kerry Biggin and Sam Archer, but their more intimate moments need further development as does Kim’s dilemma of choice between Edward and her existing boy friend. Furthermore, though the interaction between Edward and the community is perfectly etched, the rawness of his loneliness and frustration need more exploration and, as a result, the closing moments, though visually stunning, are less moving than they might be. In the hugely entertaining and acutely observed ensemble, the intimate is subsumed.
However, overall, Matthew Bourne provides an enchanting entertainment and a refreshing evocation of innocence.