Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s WellsChristmas 2014CultureTheatre
There’s no doubt the performance is visually impressive, with palpable energy and an endearing waggishness. The set design is ingenious and the adapted version of Danny Elfman’s original score is generally successful, if rough around the edges in the pit, but the endless, grinning ensemble routines border on manic.
Of course, the townspeople and 1950s aesthetic are intended as a saccharine contrast to Edward – and they are well-executed – but it’s difficult to stay on-board: director Matthew Bourne can’t seem to resist a big number. In fact, the show would function better as a musical – some lyrical content would lend a little more interest to the lengthy dance extravaganzas and add filler to what is essentially rather a simple plot, stretched to two hours.
While the capering stock characters are good (all six families’ worth of them), the cumulative effect is ultimately overwhelming – there is simply too much peripheral detail. Moments of well-observed comic genius (such as the Bible-bashing family’s “goth” daughter upstage, pressing her hand onto a barbecue, or the brief moment of gratification for her father with the middle-aged femme fatale) are eclipsed by the relentless full-cast activity. Indeed, one rather sympathises with the “goth” daughter’s sardonic asides, which undercut the action.
Amid the brassy, high-kicking riot, some of the dark subtlety of the original is lost. You can count the non-ensemble scenes on one hand, and some of these are very moving – in particular the duets between Liam Mower as Edward and co-star Katy Lowenhoff as Kim. But in fact, excluding Edward (who is given little actual focus on stage), there are few truly three-dimensional characters – not even Kim. Mower brings a gentle charm and real pathos to the role; it is a shame that he is overlooked, along with the real tragedy of the story, in favour of a Guys and Dolls-style panorama that doesn’t do justice to Edward Scissorhands’ macabre poignancy.
There’s a sense that it’s really the artificial snow cascading over the audience at the end that elicits the euphoric standing ovation, rather than the production itself.
Edward Scissorhands is on at Sadler’s Wells until 11th January, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for the production here: