When taking on a production that has already achieved great praise in another form, any director has a mountain to climb. Unfortunately Matthew Bourne’s ballet version of Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s Wells does nothing but dance in the foothills of its filmic predecessor.
Yet it is a shame to damn such a beautiful and technically brilliant show by comparison. I would have prefered to rename this version Jimmy Sharp Fists.
Little Edward (or Jimmy), played by Matt Malthouse, gets a prologue (not found in the film of the same name) which shows that when playing with sharp things one dark ‘n’ stormy night he is electrocuted and buried in a Gothic graveyard. His grief-stricken father will not let him pass and goes the Dr Frankenstein route of assembling a makeshift being – with sharpness for fists.
And so little Edward is reincarnated and goes stumbling out of the broken cemetery gates into the peaches and cream world of small-town America, rendered perfectly by pink and blue houses with immaculately striped lawns. The inhabitants of this world exhibit their characters through their costumes and movement. Adam Galbraith’s brutish jock is all baseball jacket and swagger whereas the predatory Joyce Monroe, played by Bethany Elliot, wears tight leopard print tops and stalks with animalistic purpose.
The cast minces, dances and runs towards and away from each other, forcing the realisation that you don’t need words to make sense of human behaviour. With movement and interactions the cleanest lines of motivation are drawn and credit must go to Matthew Bourne for devising such a picture perfect version of events.
Small-town America takes Edward to its bosom in the first half, and a tame picture of normality embracing curiosity is the story du jour with the lone menace – the nasty Jock who dates Edward’s dream girl – bubbling away.
The second half is when it kicks off fo’ real. Joyce pounces on the hapless Edward. Her mating dance is like what you see in clubs every weekend if you replace the stumbling and poor coordination with long limbed grace.
And then of course there is the love story and the hate story. He likes her. She likes him. She has a boyfriend. The boyfriend – a cartoon villain in jeans – ruins everything. The sharp-fisted one is spat out and cast down and that is the end of that.
There is much to admire in this production, like the finesse with which each character mimes their way through this story of alienation. It’s just a pity it was all done under the name of Edward Scissorhands – a film that cuts to the heart of the poor protagonist in a way that the ballet only caricatures.
Sadler’s Wells Theatre
December 2, 2008 – January 18, 2009
Tue – Sun at 7.30pm (excluding 24, 25, 31 Dec & 4 Jan at 7.30pm)
Sat & Sun at 2.30pm
Thu 18, Tue 23, Wed 24, Wed 31 Dec, Fri 2 Jan at 2.30pm
Box office: 0844 412 4300