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Ballet, based on original story and film by Tim Burton
Adaptation: Caroline Thompson
Devised and directed by Matthew Bourne
Music; Danny Elfman and Terry Davies

 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Making a welcome return to Cardiff, Edward Scissorhands is arguably not only the most hauntingly beautiful of Bourne’s innovative and unique productions but the most in depth and soul searching. Brought up to date with new music, the story of a boy that is different and as a result suffers jibes and discrimination, Bourne infuses this new production with an added poignancy cognisant with contemporary mores and awareness of mental health issues.

Based around the central character of a boy with an abnormality which causes him to face problems in the world – a world unknown and alien to him – Edward Scissorhands is complex and far from easy to relate in balletic form, although Bourne can be forgiven for the occasional grunt or shout. Created by an eccentric inventor, Edward is left unfinished with elongated scissors in place of hands when his creator unexpectedly dies, leaving him to face the challenges of an unknow world. As with all Bourne ballets, the dance is an amazing mix of classical and modern plus maximum use of mime, danced with empathy and expertise by Bourne’s New Adventure Company.

On Press night, the lithe and lissom Liam Mower, who back in 2015 first danced the central role of Edward – arguably one of the most difficult roles in Bourne’s diverse repertoire. – brings to the stage a knowledge and perception of the character, targeting the highs and lows of a young man who is desperate to be accepted despite fighting against prejudice and suspicion.

Not only do the principal dancers shine, but the whole of Bourne’s young and enthusiastic New Adventures Company show expertise in the different dance genres, segueing seamlessly from one to the other, under the tuition of New Adventures Take Part Creative Director Kerry Biggin who on opening night in Cardiff, danced the principal female role of Peg Boggs, the young housewife who befriends Edward. Opposite her, Dominic North dances a self-assured Bill Boggs.

Bourne’s choreography, inclusive of both the lifts and Grandes jetés of classical ballet and bang up to date acrobatics of street dance (seen also in Bourne’s ballet The Car Man) is in this respect unique. Lez Brotherston’s atmospheric set designs make an important contribution to the success of this ballet, aided and abetted by Howard Harrison’s atmospheric lighting. Worth noting that Brotherston also designed the great costumes.

Overall, a ballet that with a dark element yet with comic touches throughout that lighten the load. Does Edward overcome the problems of the title? It would be a spoiler to tell!

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet, Wales Millenium Centre

Reviewed by Luke Seidel-Haas

ROMEO AND JULIET by Bourne , Director and Choreographer – Matthew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, Rehearsal Images, Three Mills, London, 2019, Credit: Johan Persson/

Two household’s, both alike in dignity. In fair Verona where we lay our scene”. So begins Shakespeare’s 1597 tragic love story of star crossed lovers. Intended as a radical reinterpretation of the classic tale, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company does away with the feuding families, the setting and indeed many of the characters. Instead the tragedy is set within the confines of the “Verona Institute” – some form of psychiatric ward in the not too distant future. And rather than being from rival Montagues and Capulets, the eponymous lovers are two patients being treated in the institute.

Stripping back the characters and removing the text forces you to concentrate on the connection between the characters, and in that aspect Bourne’s production is excellent. the chemistry between Romeo (Andy Monaghan) and Juliet (Seren Williams) is beautiful; their moment of meeting at the party and subsequent coming together crackles and fizzes with excitement. As they weave around each other and intertwine you feel their passion, all sound tracked brilliantly to Prokofiev’s score. Their romance is the highlight of the piece, with it’s devastating ending heartrendingly performed by the pair.

Similarly impressive is the ensemble cast. As part of New Adventure‘s endeavour to nurture the next generation of dancing talent in the UK, the whole show was cast from open auditions nationwide, and at each venue on the tour six local dancers take up place in the ensemble. It is testament to their talent and the hard work of Bourne’s creative team that they blend seamlessly in with the ‘permanent’ cast.

Less convincing is the overall concept for Bourne’s piece. Romeo and Juliet has been reinterpreted in different ways ever since it’s creation. Each interpretation can reveal fresh or different perspectives, from Baz Luhrman’s film with guns set on Venice Beach to the 1957 film West Side Story highlighting the violence between rival gangs. Yet here the interpretation falls flat. Rather than rival gangs or families, the Verona Institute is divided into girls and boys. Each are generally kept apart by officious looking guards and officers, yet are allowed to interact. The two sides don’t appear to hate each other and the only obvious tension between them is sexual tension. As a result the drama has to come from a prison guard, playing the equivalent to the Tybalt role. This change in dynamic removes much of the fuel which creates the drama in Shakespeare’s script.

The other issue with Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet is the choice of location. Set in a mental institution, the cast are subjected to medication, examination and strict exercise regimes. Their movements vary from uptight and restricted in the presence of authority to wild and passionate when let loose. Yet the subject of mental health isn’t really tackled or explored. Why have these young people been institutionalised? What help are they receiving while inside? A cynic might think that the setting was chosen to tie in with the increasing awareness of mental health, and to tap in to the surrounding zeitgeist. However, in doing so did they consider how it looks to then show people with mental health problems rocking backwards and forwards before ultimately killing each other or themselves?

As a piece of modern dance, Bourne’s production is a triumph. The choreography is dazzling, the music and score have been adapted from the original with a pared down orchestra by Terry Davies to great effect and the ensemble work from the cast is excellent. Yet sadly as an overall piece of work it doesn’t feel fully thought through with regards to how the reinterpretation changes the dynamics of the piece or intent behind it. Excellent choreography and performances, hampered by issues with the interpretation.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet is running at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 22nd June 2019.