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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 8 DECEMBER 2008 - Matthew Bourne is first and foremost a storyteller who tells a tale through dance, mime, movement and acting, and, more showman than choreographer, his 2005 creation Edward Scissorhands, is a show, Broadway style. However, any comparisons to musicals such as Jerome Robbins' West Side Story, or in fact any work by Bob Fosse can be forgotten as, choreographically speaking, the moment the dancing starts, Edward Scissorhands loses all interest. It owes its popular success to the story of Tim Burton's film, to Danny Elfmann's haunting score, and to the brilliance of Lez Brotherston's sets.

Bourne saw Tim Burton's moving film in 1990 and was attracted both to Elfman's music and to the story of Edward Scissorhands who inhabits two worlds; the Gothic horror film world, and American suburbia, but Bourne's dance version at the Théâtre du Châtelet, with the exception of a couple of scenes, merely illustrates the story, adding nothing and in no way enhancing the original.

It opens slightly differently with the death of a young boy who is struck by lightning whilst playing with a pair of scissors. And then, returning directly to Burton's film, the grief-stricken father, an inventor, is shown creating a replica of his son. The father is then killed before he has had the chance to sew the boy's hands on. When Edward, who finds himself alone with several pairs of scissors instead of hands, stumbles down from his hilltop home into an oppressively cheerful suburban community, where everyone lives in little boxes with neatly mown lawns, he is welcomed and adopted by the Boggs family.

Matthew Bourne: Edward Scissorhands
Photo courtesy of the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

The show is about Edward's journey into suburbia, of how people react to him and what each learns about the other. He falls in love with cheerleader Kim Boggs, the daughter of the family who takes him in, but he can't connect with her because he has scissors for hands. The long blades increase his sense of isolation as he can neither feel nor touch, for as Bourne says, Edward is "the ultimate outsider character".

Edward finds he can create beautiful things and Bourne wastes no time in getting Lez Brotherston to create spectacular sets for him, each more inventive than the next, from the haunted mansion to the pastel-coloured suburbia of the 1950's. There is an extraordinary scene where the animals he has carved out of trees and bushes all come to life, followed by a 'White Christmas sequence complete with a glittering white ice angel. The ending, when Edward shuffles out into the light and makes snow fall on the audience is particularly spectacular.

Matthew Bourne: Edward Scissorhands
Photo courtesy of the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

The spectator is carried along by the story and the novelty of the setting for the first twenty minutes or so after which it all starts to drag. The community dancing, conventional jiving from beginning to end, becomes tedious, and Edward himself, interpreted by Matthew Malthouse, a Johnny Depp look alike, lacked Depp's charisma and charm. Both the blades and his costume, a replica of Depp's in the film, hampered his dancing making him appear heavier and more ungainly than he actually was. Perhaps, with the work's overwhelming commercial success, it has begun to suffer from both over and under-rehearsed performers.

Generally speaking, the moment all these people started to dance, dancing that any of us could do given a drink or two, what atmosphere there was, went. Did Bourne deliberately create these banal steps to make the cast even more boring? Surely the pas de deux between Edward and Kim could have been a little more inventive, for dancing with a man with scissors for hands opens up endless possibilities. And while Danny Elfman's score is wonderful, the triteness of the added pieces by Terry Davies sank the lot down into mediocrity.

Burton's film is a certain satire of American life, with the moving love story of someone who is different both emotionally and physically at its core. Edward touches your heart. In Bourne's danced version, part dance, part theatre, part entertainment, he simply stumbles from one lavish set to another in a bewildered daze.

Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for She last wrote on Dancing in the Louvre and A Tribute to Jerome Robbins.

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