Five stars for joyful show
The oddball. The weirdo. The outsider. That’s Edward, a human-looking creature created by a despairing inventor whose own son was killed by lightning while playing with scissors in the garden.
Laboratory-created Edward is vulnerable and innocent, but also potentially dangerous, being equipped with blades instead of hands.
Yes, you will soon spot elements of the Frankenstein story here - transplanted into the shiny 1950s American suburb of Hope Springs (names are important here). But shiny Hope Springs isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. There is a good dose of Gothic darkness which might be the stuff of nightmares for some more impressionable audience members. In the opening few minutes, there is the death of a child, a decent into madness, a glimpse of mob mentality, bullying and then another death.
But there is also joy and laughter in this magical dance adaptation of the 1990 Tim Burton movie.
Devon audiences are blessed that the ever inventive Matthew Bourne and his company New Adventures both have a great working relationship with the Theatre Royal Plymouth and tend to launch their tours here. It means that we get to see productions before they settle into their London Christmas run at Saddler’s Wells. In fact, the original production opened here in 2005 and I dug out my old programme and notes to see what had changed.
It’s a long time ago, but I think that visually, the projections have added to the superb visual quality (particularly the snow scenes) and the storytelling is more clear, particularly in the opening scenes. There is also a same sex couple in the small American town – a nod to changing times!
Then as now, all the characters have at least two performers to play the demanding roles and on Wednesday, I saw the debut of Stephen Murray in the title role. He was sensational, capturing the confusion and bewilderment of the lost boy and the growing confidence of a person when surrounded by love and hope. But of course, trouble lurks behind his beautifully trimmed topiary.
Stephen will no doubt always remember the applause that greeted his debut at the curtain call . Audiences will remember a great show. This is a treat with high quality production values. Go for Lez Brotherston’s wonderful designs and Duncan Mclean’s projections. Go for the sweeping score (Danny Elfman’s original film score with new music and arrangements by Terry Davies – recorded here but you’d be hard pressed to tell). Go for Matthew Bourne’s clarity of storytelling and witty choreography. And go for the performances: creepy Christians, bored housewife, aspiring politicians – all performed by dancers at the top of their game. Just Lovely.