Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands is a story about ‘the other’ and acceptance. Considering that, it’s not really surprising that Matthew Bourne would choose to adapt it. Seemingly stories about identity, acceptance and the role of the other seem to feature quite heavily in his repertoire.
The play opens with the familiar swells of Danny Elfman’s music and an aged Kim appears on stage to direct us through the beginnings of the story. Much is familiar and, as with Swan Lake and Lord of The Flies, the changes complement rather than detract.
From Edward’s first appearance as an animated mannequin, to our introduction to pastel shaded, sugar coated suburbia and the hints of a darker quality beneath those friendly neighbourhood smiles, we are lifted and spun, falling ever more in love with the hapless Edward as he charms the initially (understandably) reserved neighbours.
As we head inexorably towards the end of the performance, those familiar with Burton’s tale and those familiar with Bourne’s penchant for tragedy, know things are unlikely to end happily. Every ensemble moment becomes increasingly more tense as we wonder, what is Edward going to do for the disturbingly close neighbourhood to reject him? It’s not a spoiler to suggest they will, it’s inevitable.
The one thing I think Bourne has over Burton’s film is that the stage setting allows him to create a real sense of claustrophobia. Regularly in his films Burton paints an image of suburban horror. Those happy smiling faces are mere masks, he doesn’t even need to show us what’s beneath. In Bourne’s hands, the ever present community becomes pack like, each choreographed dance another indication of how close they really are. They do everything together. Consequently, the sense of threat in the final numbers is almost as palpable as it was in Swan Lake, when the Prince dances with the swans. It’s not that you think bad things might happen, more, you know that terrible things will.
And so to the seemingly heartbreaking conclusion – that’s three times you’ve made me cry Mr Bourne – which remains fairly faithful to the original, except for that little magical extra something. From start to end Edward Scissorhands is a beautiful and enchanting ballet. Right at the end it is also magical and wonderful. Matthew Bourne you have done it again, well done sir, well done.
Edward Scissorhands runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday.