February 6, 2024
Based on the classic 1990 Tim Burton movie, Sir Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands is the tragic story of a boy created by an eccentric inventor, left with just scissors for hands when his creator dies before completing him.
With its thunder and lightning, Gothic workshop and mad inventor, the opening has all the hallmarks of the Frankenstein of many films. As the tale progresses, it’s impossible not to draw further parallels with the monster created by Mary Shelley, even down to the way it simply vanishes at the end, there being no death or happy conclusion. Edward Scissorhands is very family friendly Frankenstein, though, as, unlike Shelley’s nameless monster, he is slowly embraced by most of the community. And with his skills including haircuts, for dogs as well as humans and creating dancing topiary, why not?
After his initial coming to life, Edward disappears for quite a while as Bourne paints a picture of Hope Springs, the 1950s American middle-class seaside town in which the human creation finds himself. With its pastel coloured houses and picket fences, it looks perfect.
Most likeable of the Hope Springs residents are the Boggs family, the archetypal, ideal mom, dad and two kids who take Edward in. Xavier Andriambolanoro Sotiya as Kevin, brother of Kim (Ashley Shaw) who becomes Edward’s love interest, shone throughout for his bright, breezy approach to playing the youngster.
These and the town’s other citizens are exaggerated; not so much characters as caricatures. Almost all are played for their comedy value: cheerleaders, a joyless reverend, a politician and his wife, all smiles and white teeth. There’s even a very un-1950s male couple with a baby.
Look closer, though, and beneath that glossy veneer, lies something else. Besides a group of Goths and a local jock, Jim Upton (Ben Brown), who we discover comes with a darker underbelly, one woman appears to pop pills while another seems to have nothing on her mind but snaring all the town’s men. But while all are painted with verve and colour, all are very two-dimensional.
Here and throughout, the dance, which comes with a healthy dose of lindy hop influence, is unbelievably slick. The fabulous cast are on a par with any West End musical as they give everything, dancing and projecting character for all they are worth. The energy levels are stratospheric.
Bourne loves filling the stage with people and action. Little gags abound. Humour being as personal as it is, some work, some do not. It does become visual overload on occasion, though.
Among top-notch ensemble dances are a beach party one for the young folk of the town in Act 1 that includes a fabulous duet for Kim and boyfriend Jim that has echoes of Sandy and Danny in Grease. Best of all however is the truly effervescent Christmas Ball for the whole town in Act II. As number follows number, it does sometimes feel like being on a high-speed train, though. It’s no coincidence that the deeper moments are when the evening slows and allows everyone to breathe.
Amidst all of this is Liam Mower’s Edward, a smart, curious and inquisitive figure who desires nothing more than acceptance; to be wanted and loved. As he imbues everything with a fragility and tenderness, Mower certainly makes you feel for the outsider. But while many are happy to take him as he is, elsewhere he evokes suspicion and wariness. For some, you just know that one wrong move will spell disaster. And sure enough, it eventually happens.
If you want it, just like Frankenstein, Edward Scissorhands does have an important message about outsiders, prejudice and judging people by looks and first impressions. But it’s the gloss that wins. The end is rather more saccharin-sweet than tear-jerking but the audience lapped it all up, and it’s easy to see why.