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'Edward Scissorhands' review – Matthew Bourne's deeply felt dance-drama is a wintry wonder

Read our four-star review of Edward Scissorhands, adapted from Tim Burton's movie, now in performances at Sadler's Wells to 20 January.

Matt Wolf
Matt Wolf

There’s staying power in those shears yet, at least as evidenced by this third London go-round for Edward Scissorhands, the utterly delightful dance-theatre piece first seen in 2005. There was criticism at various points that Matthew Bourne’s cunning adaptation of the 1990 Tim Burton film skimped on emotion, granting pride of place to the extraordinary visuals of Bourne’s invaluable designer, Lez Brotherston. That charge isn’t remotely accurate now.

As refreshed for its first local outing in nine years, Bourne’s work has the seasonal sparkle you might expect from a narrative that pays due obeisance to Christmas. But such flair exists in the service of a deeply felt tale about a troubled outsider who gets swept up by the very same suburbia that makes a celebrity out of Edward before doing him in: fame goeth before a fall.

The piece is told in flashback by the ageing Kim (Etta Murfitt at the performance caught), the high school sweetheart who captures the eye of the malformed Edward; Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp remain indelibly associated with these roles onscreen.

The suggestion here from the outset is that things may not go well – which we glean long before the youthful Kim (Katrina Lyndon) gets introduced. Small-town America possesses a savagery far more malign than Edward’s unfortunate claws and has contributed to the death of the Dr Frankenstein-like inventor from whose madcap experiments Edward has sprung.

We briefly glimpse little Edward in the irrepressibly spry form of Xavier Andriambolanoro Sotiya. But the sad-eyed adult soon appears in the beautifully expressive, um, hands of Liam Mower, who wants nothing more than the normalcy rendered impossible by his body. His quest to fit in is a thematic constant in recent days that suggests Edward as an unexpected kindred spirit to Henry Creel across town in the stage adaptation of Stranger Things.

There can’t be much that is stranger than discovering that your very peculiarity comes with an innate power. Before he knows it, Edward has established himself as a stylist extraordinaire, with a gift for sculpting afresh the surrounding topiary (seen here springing into wittily choreographed life) not to mention the hair of people and pooches alike.

Edward attracts the attention of a local vamp (Nicole Kabera) and the admiration of a town that includes Kim’s kindly mum (Murfitt again) and a gay couple busily fussing over a newborn child of their own.

The material acquires a heightened potency in an art form – dance – that is dependent on touch: partnering, after all, doesn’t generally come with blades for hands.

And so Bourne has devised a sequence of dances that at varying times let Edward loose amidst a confetti-like shower from an ice sculpture or allow him an imagined physical freedom away from the potential for danger that is his daily lot. Edward is granted unfettered escape into the cherished company of his beloved Kim, whose tough-guy boyfriend (Ben Brown) occupies a baser realm than the beatific-seeming Edward, with his otherworldly mien.

The Pleasantville of sorts that is Hope Springs has an ugly side at odds with fast-learning Edward. We see his quizzical, naive self early on movingly testing limbs that seem to take him by surprise, only to find his confidence undone by the vagaries of chance and by a world that cannot accommodate difference.

Danny Elfman’s film score, refashioned and amplified with original music from Terry Davies, conveys satiric bite one minute, a shivery power the next. You exist in thrall at this wonderland, however wayward it may turn out to be, only to find yourself at the exit wiping away a tear.

Edward Scissorhands is Sadler's Wells through 20 January. Book Edward Scissorhands tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Edwards Scissorhands (Photo by Johan Persson)

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