Theatre review: Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s Wells

Edward Scissorhands. Picture: Johan Persson

Edward Scissorhands. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

A spiritful adaptation but perhaps not a spectacular one, says Alex Bellotti.

It’s hardly a Christmas film in the traditional sense, but with its angelic soundtrack, magical surrealism and kitsch aesthetic, there’s plenty of festive charm about Tim Burton’s cult 1990 classic Edward Scissorhands.

While Matthew Bourne’s dance adaptation of the dark fantasy has admirably kept such spirit intact for its new seasonal run at Sadler’s Wells though, it doesn’t quite deliver the theatrical spectacle audiences have come to expect from the superstar choreographer.

In terms of narrative, the show – which debuted in 2005 – is attentively faithful to Burton’s story and moves along concisely and clearly. A young boy, Edward (Dominic North) is brought back to life by an eccentric professor in his dark tower, before the former is forced by circumstance to descend upon and, ultimately, integrate himself within the cloyingly WASPish townsfolk below.

Lez Brotherston’s set is fantastic – particularly in the town where dancers emerge hobbit-like from identikit suburban houses, which are as cartoonish as their film counterparts and matched by the extravagant, eye-poppingly colourful costumes of their inhabitants.

Indeed the neighbourhood scenes are where the dance showpieces shine most brightly. Poodle dogs, barbeque skewers and push scooters are all incorporated into busy ensemble renditions of contemporary dance, backed by a vibrant big band score that completes the knowingly-camp picture.

The only problem is that such routines often feel a bit safe technically. It’s more noticeable in the more intimate, stripped down moments; North is a fine Edward and astutely captures from the outset the nervous, jazzy mannerisms of a young Johnny Depp. But his scenes with preppy love interest Kim Boggs (an elegant Ashley Shaw) seem to sacrifice ambition for clean simplicity.

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In a production with more show-stopping set-pieces, this might be a welcome change of pace, but here it plays out with a little too much understatement. Every twirl and tap is there to serve the narrative, which makes for two welcomingly tight halves, but the show might just benefit from a few moments in which its performers could really be set free.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a touching, high-production show to get you in the mood for Christmas, you can’t go far wrong here. Just don’t expect to be overwhelmed.

Until January 11.

Rating: 3/5 stars.