Last week, M and I went with a friend of mine to The Hippodrome to see Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands. The show, by Bourne’s company New Adventures, is a ballet adaption of Tim Burton’s movie of the same name. The production first toured in 2005 and was a smash hit, selling out all over the world. In 2014, Bourne went back to his adaption, and revitalised it ‘for a new generation of dance lovers and theatre goers.’
As a venue, The Hippodrome is great. Friendly, efficient staff, comfy seats and a decent view wherever you sit. It did seem to be about a thousand degrees in there though, and we were all wildly dehydrated by the time we came out.
Despite the over-heating, the ballet is incredible. It is immediately recognisable as the film you know and love, with the saturated colours in the sets, the costumes and the awkward movements of Edward himself. The plot is much the same, if slightly simplified for the stage. The costumes are beautiful, and immediately tell you what you need to know about who is who with the characters. Danny Elfman’s score fits beautifully and creates precisely the right feel for each moment.
The lead roles of Edward and Kim are shared between two dancers for this season, but I think we saw it with Dominic North (who was nominated for Best Male Dancer at the National Dance Awards for this role in the 2009 production) and Ashley Shaw (hard to tell with wigs, and the website is pretty unhelpful with it’s information on who danced who). Either way, both were incredible. Dancing with scissors for hands can’t be easy, but the movement was stunning. There was something birdlike in the nervous, hesitant moves of Edward, and it was clear that North was comfortable using the scissors in his dancing. I wondered at first how the duets would work with the scissors skewering poor Shaw. I should have known Bourne would have a trick up his sleeve. The first duet, in the first half, is as expected. A dream sequence, with Edward with hands. Beautifully danced, very pretty, seemed like a clever workaround.
And then came the second half. The first half, aside from the duet, is very modern in style, with mixes of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll dancing for the teenagers and a contemporary ballet feel. The second half is more classical ballet. When Edward and Kim dance together, we get straight up classic ballet. And it was stunning.
The iconic scene with the ice sculpture was one of the most beautiful pieces of dancing I’ve ever watched. Edward danced with the scissors on this time, but there were no lifts at all. A duet without the fallback of a dramatic lift is hard to make look impressive, but oh, did it! Kim and Edward moved absolutely in sync, with ‘snow’ fluttering around them. Mesmerising. The very last duet blew it out of the water. Scissors intact, they pulled off some very impressive lifts. Watching it as a dancer, I could see the changes that had been made to allow them to do this safely. Edward held Kim much more loosely than you would usually see, and in slightly different holds. This puts most of the hard work to get the lift to happen onto Ashley Shaw, who must have abs of steel. It looked effortless and breath-taking.
The whole company were immensely impressive, bringing all the dark humour of the film into their dancing, and managing to make clear character impressions even when dancing the same steps as the rest of the company. The second half was particularly impressive, even converting skeptical M into a fan. Apparently, it’s just modern dance he doesn’t like. Classical ballet? More of that!
New Adventures are touring Edward Scissorhands until mid March. You can see the rest of the dates here. Whether you’re a ballet fan, or just a fan of the film, please go. You’ll have your mind blown.
I’ll leave the last word to the original Edward Scissorhands, Johnny Depp, “Bravo! I teetered on the verge of tears throughout.”