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Matthew Bourne's

Edward Scissorhands

by Lea Marshall

February 17, 2007 -- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC

Matthew Bourne’s staged dance adaptation of "Edward Scissorhands", the 1990 Tim Burton film, tells us nothing about the plight of the artist in society that the movie didn’t already cover- until the curtain call.

In Bourne’s production, as in Burton’s, we learn the story of Edward, a boy created out of loneliness and longing by a man both brilliant and compassionate, aside from one apparent lapse during which he decides giving a boy scissors for hands is a fine idea. The loss of his creator/father draws the lonely Edward down from his home on the hill into an oppressively bright suburban neighborhood and, for a time, into the lives (possibly hearts) of its inhabitants.

Bourne’s Edward (danced by Sam Archer), with his awkward walk and pensive finger (scissor)-waggle, cramps our hearts just as Johnny Depp did in the film. But despite tight choreography sprinkled with brief comic moments (such as Edward and his young friend Kevin Boggs playing rock/paper/scissors with inevitable results) the dancing felt merely illustrative rather than infusing the story with new energy—with the exception of a few scenes.

As Edward’s art (with topiaries, with haircuts) gained him cautious acceptance in the neighborhood, the novelty of his awkward charm became too much for Joyce Monroe, the lascivious housewife (danced by Mikah Smillie). In an amusing duet, Joyce worked hard to seduce the young misfit, stalking him through her living room, tumbling him into a beanbag chair and throwing herself (carefully) into his arms, much to his confusion, the long blades of his hands waving about.

Later, a big dance scene at a Christmas party fleetingly conveyed the darkness—bred by faddishness, consumerism and a mob mentality—behind such an aggressively normal suburban life. Edward wandered bewilderedly through the steps and floor patterns of a sprightly unison dance performed by the entire company with a cheerful, callous disregard for his discomfiture. Tenderness, longing and an elusive joy did shimmer into view during Edward’s pas de deux with his heroine, his Dulcinea, the cheerleader Kim Boggs (danced by Hannah Vassallo) as the couple moved together with abandon using their limbs, their entire bodies, her hands but not his, through a substantial series of lifts and intertwined partnering.

Though Bourne’s production ended just as Burton’s did, with Edward’s unhappy exile back to his solitary home, the curtain call gave an unexpected twist. Shuffling slowly onstage in character, blinking in the light, Edward appeared stunned as applause broke over him and then amazed and delighted at, finally, being accepted and celebrated for himself. Thus Bourne cleverly turned his audience into co-conspirators in a feel-good, happy ending that would not have been possible outside the setting of a live performance.

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