Matthew Bourne’s Scissorhands, a box office success in Britain, where it originated, is now at Brooklyn Academy of Music after a US tour and a good deal of hype. Not having seen the film, I came to this version knowing only, by way of reference, his Cinderella, Play Without Words and 1998’s innovative Swan Lake with its all-male corps of savage swans.
Bourne describes his work as dance/theatre but Scissorhands is not much in terms of theatre and even less in dance, which fails to be cutting-edge, no pun intended. The piece is reset in the 1950s, and most of the choreography performed by the big, cheerfully energetic cast is based on social dances, unimaginatively choreographed prom-style jitterbugging and swing. The topiary garden ballet, where Scissorhands clips shrubs into fanciful figures, is about as interesting as weeding. Other big dance numbers lack the invention seen in previous Bourne works based on movies, such as Play Without Words, a satiric twist on The Servant.
Scissorhands is an un-grim fairy tale. An inventor, played by Andrew Corbett as a more sinister version of Dr Coppelius, expires before his creation, a monster more Petrouchka than Frankenstein, is complete. In a wildly Gothic scene, the monster kid is struck by lightning and the scissors he holds fuse into his arms. Sam Archer, a riveting dancer-actor, is the best thing in the show, wild-eyed yet naïve, a potentially dangerous creature who wanders into this cookie-cutter cartoon suburb where he’s given shelter by a cheerful Avon lady (Madelaine Brennan) and her family. He falls for their winsome daughter (Hannah Vassallo) and all goes well – until her nasty would-be boyfriend intervenes.
After Archer’s eerie opening scenes, the air goes out of the piece. Terry Davies’ unremarkable music, adapting some of the Danny Elfman film score, is performed live but sounds canned. Talented as Bourne is, Scissorhands remains stubbornly stillborn. Tel + 1 718 636 4100