I think I was the only person in the audience for Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s Wells in London who wasn’t eating Malteasers and hadn’t seen the film. There are few things in life that the presence of a Malteaser will not improve but you do not need to know Tim Burton’s 1990 film to enjoy Matthew Bourne’s modern ballet.
Edward is a lonely figure, part Pinocchio part Frankenstein’s monster, who must make his way in small town America and try to overcome the suspicion and hostility he encounters as a digitally challenged person.
Bourne was attracted by this story because, in his own words, it is ‘simple and universal enough to be told through music and movement alone’. He sells himself short by saying so: much of the magic in his magnificent production comes from the costumes and set.
Suburban America is conjured through sloping streets of pastel houses at skewed angles with foreshortened perspectives. The effect is at once familiar and unsettling: on the surface it looks like a model community where everyone knows the neighbours’ names but, when Edward appears onstage, the genial nods quickly become accusatory glares and you wonder how you hadn’t noticed how sinister the suburb really is.
Danny Elfman’s music (from the film) provides the haunting fairytale atmosphere that does so much to establish Edward’s otherworldly identity and gentleness of soul. The choreography comes into its own in the big ensemble scenes where the supporting cast offer a range of strong visual characterisations that serve to underpin sympathy for Edward with a real sense of how hard it is for mere mortals to accept a strange sorcerer into their midst let alone their hearts.
The second half is quite a bit better than the first so make sure you don’t eat all your Malteasers before the interval.
Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands is at Sadler’s Wells until 18 January 2009