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Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands

24 January 15 words: Alison Kirkman
We checked in at Theatre Royal for a story about a misunderstood bloke who gets a bit snippeh
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Image: New Adventures

It’s unusual in dance for an artistic director to be more famous than his company but Matthew Bourne is the exception. While the name New Adventures – the company Bourne founded – remains unfamiliar to many, mention the man himself and far more people will know exactly who you’re talking about.

His all-male Swan Lake has become a modern classic and nowadays almost every production he brings to the stage is near-guaranteed to sell out.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Based on Tim Burton’s film, a much-loved romantic fantasy starring Johnny Depp, Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands split the critics when it first opened in 2005. Some who loved his Swan Lake felt this new work was Bourne himself selling out. At the time, I had to agree. It felt more like a crazy caper than ballet – too much running about, very little emotion – and even that seemed too kind.

Ten years later, I’m really happy to say things could not be more different. With new sets, and new choreography, from start to finish the central themes of isolation and self-discovery were clear and this revival was polished, poignant and beautiful.

The sets and costumes by Lez Brotherston – a designer renowned for his work in dance – are the first thing to inspire awe. As the curtain lifts, giant gothic gates are unveiled and, in the distance, a remote castle sits on top of a hill lit by the moon. We are in the cemetery along with the mourning characters onstage.

In contrast, fifties suburbia is light, bright and pastel-coloured, complete with greenery, white picket fences and a collection of residents to fit every stereotype.

Edward is driven down from the castle into this new world following a cruel joke on Halloween and it’s the clean-living, all-American Boggs that take him into their fold. Mother of the family, Pegg, seems quite unfazed by the discovery of a pale, leather-clad man with scissors for hands lurking in her front yard.

Liam Mower, who began his dance career as the very first Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical, was compelling in the title role. Apart from the interval, he is barely offstage but consistently hit the mark with both his steps and comic timing to display his character’s hitherto undiscovered talents for topiary, hairdressing and serving barbeque fare.

His two duets with Kim (Ashley Shaw) are charming and full of heart – especially their dream sequence amidst dancing topiary where he finally gets to ditch the scissors. Very occasionally, Mower veered a little too far into gay best friend territory, rather than potential lover, but this is a minor point in an otherwise first-class performance. At times the dancers’ chemistry is palpable and it’s easy to get lost in the moment.

If you’re a fan of the film, you may find yourself questioning one or two plot changes, but this production has grown into a truly captivating interpretation of Burton’s modern fairy-tale. And when the snow begins to fall, the magic is complete.

New Adventures performed Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands at Theatre Royal Nottingham on Tuesday 20 January 2015.

New Adventures website

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