Matthew Bourne's Edward ScissorhandsLeft - Matt Malthouse. Cover - Noi Tolmer and Matt Malthouse.

The Edward Scissorhands movie by Tim Burton has gained notoriety all around the world. This sensitive parody of the idiosyncrasies of suburbia, not only charms both young and old with its enchanting characters and poignant, fairy tale storyline, but also presents a rather haunting extreme case scenario of the disruption of the ‘norm’. 

Matthew Bourne’s contemporary dance show, Edward Scissorhands, does not quite live up to the movie for me. 

Edward Scissorhands is the story of Edward, a young man who is adopted into a typical suburban family after being found lost and alone by the family’s mother, Peg Boggs. But Edward is entirely normal. Made by an inventor, and with scissor blades for hands, he encounters many trials and tribulations trying to fit into suburban life, including falling in love with Peg’s daughter Kim, and trying to make friends with the local youths. A dark and yet enlightening tale, it represents the extreme of suburbia.

The sets and costumes are brilliant – here is where the film meets the stage without effort.  Everything from the pastel houses in the valley, to the antiquted stereotypes represented by costume, are perfectly aligned. Yet it is the dancing itself, that does not do justice the emotion and depth of the movie.

Bourne’s choreography was entertaining. Easily the most memorable scene would be when Edward and Kim fantasise about the moving trees: dancers clad entirely as topiary trees, even covering their own faces so that their human form was far removed from the scene, and then moving in formation, as if Edward and Kim were lost in a tree maze, was truly stunning. Other beautiful moments included a simple set change where the sun rose over the suburban valley, or particularly the introduction to all the characters, where each ‘family’ performed their characters and their neighbourhood interactions for the first time. However, much of the choreography was gesture based, and danced conversations of pointing and gesturing seemed to convey much of the storyline. It was too easy. I craved something more genuinely emotive than a series of gestures. I wanted choreography that used the body to heighten the drama, to devastate the audience with pain, to enlighten the audience with joy. But all we were fed was simple, easy, entertainment. I did not feel that this choreography gave the story enough depth – it retained the superficial quality of its suburbia, without ever penetrating what lies beneath.

The choreography was often busy and intense. The large scale scenes, where all dancers were present and dancing together, at times looked awkward and cramped, as if the sets were too far downstage and left not enough room for the large cast. 

Many scenes were so full of different stage actions, that as an audience member, I was not sure where exactly my focus was expected. Certainly all of it was interesting, but I found myself getting distracted from what was important. This, after all, is a fairly traditional ‘narrative’, and I had expected the choreography to conform to this idea: i.e. one point of stage action taking precedence over everything else on stage, in order to convey the story in a linear form. What Bourne does is different – he applies so many layers to the story through his varied choreographic action, that the story becomes something more than traditional – it becomes closer to reality. The sideline characters share the spotlight, just as in suburbia everyone has their own lives to deal with. 

Edward Scissorhands was entertaining, with great production values and fantastic dancers, but it did not live up to the emotive and mysterious wonder that I was expecting. It is much lighter in general than the film, with a lot of the original story line cut out of the stage production. However, it is still a great show, and will be remembered much more for its positive points than its negative ones.

Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands

Venue: Sydney Opera House | Opera Theatre
Dates: Thursday 29 May - Saturday 14 June
Tickets: or 02 9250 7777

Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 18 to 22 Jun 2008
Bookings: or 136 246

Venue: His Majesty's Theatre
Dates: Tuesday 1 July - Sunday 6 July
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 136 246

Venue: the Arts Centre, State Theatre
Dates: Tuesday 22 July - Sunday 3 August
Bookings: (Register for priority period - 3 March– 10 March) |

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