It’s a pretty novel idea to turn a film into a dance production, but novel is choreographer Matthew Bourne’s middle name, so it seems fitting that he and his production company New Adventures should turn the story of misfit Edward Scissorhands into their latest show.
Just in case you don’t know Tim Burton’s 1990 film starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands tells the tale of a boy created Frankenstein-style by an aging inventor who died before he could give his new son hands. Left with long scissors where his hands should be, the shy, sweet-natured Edward is discovered by the local community – a straight-laced, small-minded suburbia – by which he is both feared for his differences and embraced for his talent for hair cutting and topiary skills.
For those that have seen the film, a lot of Matthew Bourne’s production will be familiar. The story stays very true to Tim Burton’s creation, including some scenes direct from the film, such as Edward shaping a huge ice sculpture with a flurry of ice chippings raining down on him, and the flirty neighbour who finds the experience of having her hair cut by Edward a little too pleasurable. The essence of the film is also captured in the beautiful sets and lighting, which convey both the dark isolation of the castle where Edward is created, and in contrast, the pastel-hued, sunny residences of American suburbia. Part of Danny Elfman’s original score is used, conjuring images of the film, and even Edward himself (a role shared by Richard Winsor and Sam Archer) is remarkably similar to Johnny Depp’s Edward, both in image and mannerisms.
One departure from the film, however, is a scene at the beginning showing audiences why Edward was created, and providing a specific reason for the presence of his scissorhands – the creator’s son, Edward, died when lightning struck him while he was playing with scissors.
Though a major part of the story is conveyed through mime, rather than dance, it is in the dance set pieces that the magic of the story comes through. Edward and his love interest Kim (Kerry Biggin or Hannah Vassallo) dancing together in a dream-like sequence along with a dozen dancing trees is one such scene, while the dance en-masse at the Christmas Ball symbolises the togetherness of the community and the sense of isolation and frustration that Edward feels being without a partner, as Kim dances with her boyfriend.
It is the love story that leads to Edward’s downfall. Though the jovial neighbourhood treats him as one of their own when he gives them a fancy haircut or turns a garden tree into a dinosaur, they are quick to reject him when he accidentally hurts Kim’s brother in frustration.
Rejected by his new-found society and hounded back to his lonely castle, even Kim is forced to acknowledge that Edward will always be an outsider. In their final poignant dance the pair embrace despite the hazard of the scissorhands, before Edward disappears, never to trouble suburbia again.
Edward Scissorhands is playing at Sadler’s Wells, where Matthew Bourne is Artistic Associate, until 5 Feb 2006.