Last weekend I went to Brooklyn for a performance @ BAM. We attended Matthew Bourne's dance translation of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. Despite Bourne's reputation as a controversial hit maker, this production is decidely lacking in edge. It turns out to be a faithful overly kid friendly 'cut and paste' adaptation. There are a few plot simplifications to accomodate a theatrical performance (due to their physical nature they can't have as many sets or scene changes) but otherwise it's a kissing cousin to many recent film-to-stage transitions which don't so much rethink the movies as simply stage them.
By now you know where I stand on this issue. If you're adapting a work of any sort from one medium to another it must be sufficiently rethought or it becomes a disposable awkward copy. I was expecting to see Tim Burton's most significant work rethought as a ballet but the production didn't feel commited to the dancing. This version is more of a movement piece. You come away feeling like you've seen a mimed version of Edward Scissorhands rather than a dance version.
There's two significant changes to the 1990 film's story and though they aggravated me considerably they also felt like something Tim Burton would approve of given his recent filmography. Just like Burton's new version Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this one adds father/son backstory. You don't need it. Magical tales are usually best when they're unexplained, giving your imagination room to move. I don't need to know why Vincent Price and Johnny Depp were playing Geppetto & Pinnochio style parent/child issues writ fantastical. I like that it was painted in whimsical large strokes.
The other change came at the end when Edward escapes without actually killing his jock attacker. I assume this change was made since nobody believes anyone can handle mixed emotions anymore --best that everything be easy to digest and leaning towards cheerful. Most old fairy tales and even, it turns out, new ones don't pass the modern test anymore: too grim. Everything must be infantilized. No one must be upset at any development.
I don't mean to imply that this production is terrible so much as unsatisfying. The production team does do a witty job rethinking Burton's fun cookie cutter suburbia and the famous romantic ice statue sequence transfers as well as you would imagine: it was already a non-verbal dance piece. Here it's just amplified and the topiary statues come beautifully to life. But mostly this production just left me longing for my DVD player and another look at Burton's remarkable early career peak. I've never thought of Edward Scissorhands as an "actors movie" or a "screenplay" movie per se (though I do think Depp's indelible creation was Oscar worthy) but I found myself missing the actors obedient puppy simplicity and Dianne Wiest's maternal warmth and carefully sugared line readings. Danny Elfman's famous score was ever present but the movie's less celebrated audio wonder -- that perfectly succinct dialogue --was greatly missed.
Time to watch the magical film again.