Matthew Bourne's modern fairytale take on Tim Burton returns
Matthew Bourne has had a fresh stab at his 2005 take on Tim Burton’s ultimate outsider’s tale for this year’s Sadler’s Wells Christmas offering. There is some new choreography, music and design, but the essentials remain unchanged: this is Bourne showing off his masterful storytelling skills for a great piece of entertainment.
It works because the 1990 source material mines the same seam of fable as so much of the classic ballet repertoire – something Bourne is able to point out with, for instance, nods to ‘Coppélia’ in Edward’s creation scene. It also allows Bourne to have immense amounts of fun with an Americana aesthetic that he manipulates with glee.
Across Lez Brotherston’s gorgeously kitsch set, the teeming world of Hope Springs pops into vivid life as a 1950s suburbia with the clichés delightfully accounted for: the nine-to-five dads, desperate housewives, Bible bashers, jocks and cheerleaders are all sketched in with sustained witty movement.
Into this peculiar, jovial environment drops Edward, played with affecting, stilted innocence on opening night by Dominic North. The kindly Boggs family take him in, the neighbourhood embraces his topiary and tonsorial skills, and the cougar next door tries to sink her claws in – the slickly-plotted failed seduction scene is glorious farce.
But Edward only has eyes for the Boggs’ daughter Kim (gracefully precise Ashley Shaw), which doesn’t please her bullying boyfriend (a marvellously swaggering Tom Clark).
Bourne packs in plenty of dance flourishes. The downside is, he dodges much of the opportunity to delve into deeper emotion, plumping up comedy elements and grand set pieces instead. It means when the town turns on their strange new addition, the impact is rather blunted. But Edward and Kim’s final pas de deux is a real heartstring-tugger, thanks to the tenderness the pair pour into negotiating the outsized blades he has where his hands should be.
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