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Review: Edward Scissorhands at Liverpool Empire ****1/2

It may not be the most famous, but Edward Scissorhands is arguably the most beguiling of all Matthew Bourne’s many stage creations from over the past three decades.

The magical, but bittersweet, tale of the lost boy fashioned with shears for hands – based on Tim Burton’s 1990 cinematic fantasy - sends the spirits soaring as well as touching all but the stoniest of hearts.

It’s almost a decade since it last came to the Empire, but it appears it hasn’t lost any of its enchantment in the intervening years.

When a grieving, eccentric Frankenstein-style inventor (Luke Murphy on opening night) dies after a break-in at his a gloomy castle on top of a hill, his unfinished creation abandons the crumbling edifice for the neat lawns and pastel hues of Pleasantville-like suburbia below.

Here in Hope Springs, he’s taken in by kindly Peg Boggs (Kerry Biggin) and, after a tremulous start, the outsider becomes a source of fascination among the wider community. But sadly, fascination doesn’t necessarily equal acceptance as the sweet-natured innocent discovers.

Above: Edward and Kim Boggs. Top: Edward Scissorhands and the inventor. Photos by Johan Persson.

Liam Mower’s movements progress imperceptibly from jerky and halting to animated and lithe as his Edward grows in confidence, and he wields the eponymous scissor hands with delicate dexterity – although still with a certain amount of blade-flashing danger.

But much of the emotional power of his performance comes from his nuanced facial expressions which speak a thousand words (ten times more than Johnny Depp’s entire dialogue in the original film).

While his final, tender – and oh-so-skilfully choreographed – pas de deux with the object of his affection, Katrina Lyndon’s sparky Kim Boggs, is quietly moving (there were distinct sniffing sounds in the audience around me), he also brings keen comic timing to some delicious scenes danced with Ashley Shaw, performing as predatory suburban siren Joyce Monroe.

Above: The cast of Edward Scissorhands. Photo by Johan Persson.

Around Mower a large ensemble creates crisp, witty changing scenes and forms striking tableaux as residents – from joggers to politicians - of this disparate but all-American 50s community, while storyteller Bourne uses Terry Davies’ music and arrangements to give Hope Springs’ youthful inhabitants an urgent, West Side Story vibe.

The heart of the tale remains that originally imagined by Burton and screenwriter Caroline Thompson and realised on the big screen with the help of Danny Elfman’s ethereal and evocative original score, which is also used to effect here.

But the live storytelling is enhanced not only by Davies’ additional music but also by Liverpool designer Lez Brotherston’s fantastical sets (he apparently channelled Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married for the 50s suburbia feel), beautifully lit by Howard Harrison, and by Duncan McLean’s atmospheric video and projection design.


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