Because I wasn’t a goth, the story of Edward Scissorhands means about as much to me as purple tights, lace gloves and The Cure: not much at all.
But I was very pleased to be given two free tickets last week to Matthew Bourne’s ballet adaptation of the Tim Burton film, at Sadler’s Wells. The Walthamstow-born choreographer first came pirouetting into the public eye with his all male Swan Lake in 1995 – something I didn’t go to see on account of only being 11 years old when it came out and therefore unable to afford the ticket.
Edward Scissorhands, his latest project, has returned to Sadler’s Wells after a frequently sold out world tour. It has been so popular, in fact, that I only got a ticket was because someone had booked them a year ago and was now unable to go – God bless chest infections.
Now, the first thing to say about Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands is that it is only based on the film. There are some fairly hefty plot changes. I discovered this after my sister and I had to ask someone of a greater gothic inclination what happens at the end of the film. While the film sees Edward go back to his big old house, the ballet ends with a more ambiguous scene in which Edward appears to turn into a pair of scissors. There are other changes too, which a more avid Burton fan would no doubt have spotted even from my seats – we were in ‘The Gods’, which actually suited the show rather well.
However, the main thrust of the ballet, as with the film, remains that goths can get girls too. Now, why Tim Burton would write a film all about the unlikely sex appeal of goths is a mystery, of course. But unfortunately, it means that there isn’t a huge narrative drive on which to hang all the dancing. This isn’t uncommon – The Nutcracker isn’t exactly an edge-of-your-seat thriller – but it does mean that I was left at the end wondering if I had missed something.
I hadn’t of course. Because what this show is really all about is the dancing and the design. The whole thing looks beautiful, from the costumes, to the set (you’ll notice I haven’t said ‘to the dancers’, but come on, I’m not an idiot – there’s only one Johnny Depp). The most visually striking scene had the whole chorus of dancers dressed as topiary figures. The green baize suits covered their entire bodies and heads (god knows how they didn’t end up leaping into each other’s armpits) while they danced around the two lovers in a sort of English-Heritage-cum-Alan-Titchmarsh dream sequence. It was stunning.
But, aside from the aforementioned dancing, costume and set design, I couldn’t really engage with the ballet. Perhaps it is because I haven’t seen the film. Perhaps it is because I have never fallen in love with a black-haired outcast. Perhaps it is because I was so high up I could have knocked out the dancers with falling biscuits.
But then what do I know? Why trust a writer? As Truman Capote once said, “I believe more in the scissors than I do the pencil”.