Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands

March 14, 2007

Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY

March 14�31, 2007

Reviewed by Amanda Smith

Pictured: Edward Scissorhands

Photographer: Richard Termine

Courtesy: Brooklyn Academy of Music

Matthew Bourne’s highly-touted stage version of Tim Burton’s 1990 film, Edward Scissorhands moved into BAM’s Opera House for a three-week stay and sold the house out. It’s exceedingly clever entertainment, Bourne’s most popular piece since what people refer to as “the homosexual Swan Lake” put him on the dance/theater map twelve years ago.

Central to the piece’s success is the casting of Edward, Richard Windsor in the performance I saw, as the cursed figure created by an inventor and left unfinished, with scissors for hands, at the inventor’s death. (Sam Archer alternates in the role.) The fine-featured Windsor brings, in addition to ballet training, significant acting ability; he portrayed Edward as an outcast for whom one can actually feel pity. Windsor is enough of an actor, and the work camp enough, to make even the curtain call a performance: he bows as a sensitive artist, à la Nureyev, overtly reveling in the applause, scissors raised triumphantly and twinkling in the light.

Typical of a commercial musical, Bourne’s piece is set-heavy and plays out to Terry Davies’ score, plus arrangements from the original film score by Danny Elfman. There’s a spooky graveyard, cute pink and blue clapboard houses as a vision of idealized American suburbia of the 1950s, and a pink bedroom. The neighbors are vividly costumed as stereotypical suburbanites (both set and costumes are by Lez Brotherston), and more than one audience member compared it all to the first act of Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut set in vinyl suburbia. For my money, the wittiest aspect of Bourne’s stage is the small corps of dancers costumed as green topiary.

The musical-like formula of Edward Scissorhands includes a love interest, the perky, pretty, normal blonde, played by Hannah Vassallo (alternately danced by Kerry Biggin). One of the reasons I wanted to see the production was to watch how Bourne managed the partnering with all those scissors flashing about. Carefully, I thought. However in the central pas de deux, Edward dances without the scissors, a kind of cop-out, but no doubt justified by the fact that thematically it’s a dream ballet, and in his dreams, Edward has hands.

As a culture, we now accept film as our version of folk tale or high drama, and Bourne’s use of a cinematic source many are familiar with does some of the same stuff as Swan Lake and Greek drama—we already know the story, and we’re watching the ritual being played out.