Review: Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Edward Scissorhands

Newcastle Theatre Royal – 25th March 2024

I have seen and heard tell of various productions overseen by Sir Matthew Bourne over the years and when I got wind of this interpretation of Tim Burton’s modern fairy tale I could not have been more excited to see it. Based on the 1990 film of the same name starring Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder and Dianne Wiest, Edward Scissorhands tells the tale of an unfinished humanoid who is left alone in an uncaring world following the death of his creator and de-facto father. 

In Bourne’s version, the creator of Edward only appears at the beginning and his demise is caused by youths from the local seemingly idyllic town breaking and entering into his imposing gothic mansion on the outskirts of town during a treat or treat prank gone wrong. This releases the eponymous Edward to venture beyond the walls that have been his home for the entirety of his existence. 

Fans of the 1990 film, as the action transfers to the town of Hope Springs, can rejoice as the elaborate and beautifully fashioned set brings the pastel shaded and fantastical imaginary of the film to life on the stage. The costumes, onto which I will touch a little later in this review, and the exquisite set were designed by long time Bourne collaborator and prolific designer, Lez Brotherston and the attention to detail in all aspects of the set defy superlatives as Brotherston skilfully suggests and teases that which on celluloid is relatively easy to achieve but with so many different elements from the film onto the stage is not far short of genius.

The topiary is exquisite and with some deft lighting and imaginative angles shows the town off as being a place of wonder and amazement as seen through the eyes of Edward. This is how Tim Burton intended Hope Springs to been experience by the viewer.

I rarely start a review with comments about the technical aspects of the show but in this case it is only fair and proper. Complementing Brotherston’s outstanding set and costumes, is a lighting plot designed by Howard Harrison, effective and unobtrusive video and projection work from Duncan McLean and crisp and clear sound design from Paul Groothuis. I cannot fault any technical aspects of this production. 

At the Q+A session after the performance, we were informed that the production was with the blessing of Tim Burton and screen writer Caroline Thompson who Bourne counts as a close and personal friend. In the programme notes, Bourne thanks Caroline, Burton and composer Danny Elfman for ‘trusting us with their beloved tale,’ I would say that had they had any concerns about Bourne doing this magical and occasionally horrific story, then they are soon eradicated early on into this dance spectacle which mesmerises from the word go.

And so onto the performers, a little later in this review than usual. The titular hero Edward is played by Liam Mower who originated the role of Billy Elliot on stage. He is perfect in this role. He looks every part the double of Johnny Depp from the film but adds an innocent impishness to Edward’s character which is as endearing as it is amusing. His love interest, Kim, this evening was played with delight and glee by Ashley Shaw who offers a more nuanced and gradual love for the main protagonist that I felt was rushed in the movie but is addressed in this lavish dance interpretation.

As ever, I would love to name check everyone in the production but time and space forbids me to do so. The caricatures of the idyllic American family unit are beautifully and frighteningly recreated by the large ensemble. There are two antagonists in the film, namely, Kim’s boyfriend, Jim Upton (Benjamin Barlow Bazely) and Esmerelda Evercreech (Mimi Tomatani.) Bazely’s character is almost a carbon copy of his counterpart in the movie and he makes a great job of displaying this toxic masculine jock son of the town’s Mayor. Tomatani’s Esmerelda, in this version, is the pious wife of the town’s vicar, the Reverend Judas Evercreech (Andrew Ashton.) Esme is no less crackers in this production but she is a more rounded and believable character than the religious, and frankly bonkers, zealot in the movie. 

One final character, not quite a baddy but not far off, is the flame haired strumpet Joyce Monroe (Stephanie Billers) who has her lascivious eyes firmly set on the windswept and interesting Edward as soon as he arrives. Billers brings the naughtiness of the role beautifully to the stage and her stage son and daughter, Aristide Lyons and Holly Saw respectively, never dropped their saccharine and cartoon like characters from the moment they floated on to the final curtain.

I said that I would return to comment on the costumes. I rather think that Brotherston had a great deal of fun when he was putting this costume plot together as there are some delightful humorous touches dotted around. I cannot talk about the costumes without mentioning Edward’s skin costume which is beautifully crafted but must be extremely restrictive for the actor playing Edward to manoeuvre in. Much credit goes to Liam Mower not only for this but also having to contend with the cumbersome and incredibly effective scissors that he has for hands. While we all realise they are not actually blades because he would have someone’s eyes out, they must still be heavy and difficult to work with. Before I leave the costumes, I have to mention the wonderful topiary costumes towards the end of act one. Visually amazing but, goodness me, if pigs sweat, men perspire and women glow, these brave artists must be glowing buckets by the end of that gruelling sequence. 

This is a directorial and visual masterpiece by Sir Matthew who has brought Tim Burton’s cautionary tale of acceptance of diversity, tolerance, elements of cancel culture which is far ahead of its time and love in a quite remarkable piece of story-telling through dance using the base material of a well-loved and cult film, kicking and screaming into the modern day. It is nothing short of outstanding. The ending is deliberately and quite cleverly open ended which gives the audience the opportunity to decide the fate of the innocent, blade handed hero.

Edward Scissorhands plays at The Theatre Royal, Newcastle until 6th April and it truly is not to be missed.  

Discover more from Home

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading