Brett Mason reviews Matthew Bourne’s ballet adaptation of ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and explores the highs and lows of modern-day ballet.
Whilst waiting in the foyer of the Birmingham Hippodrome, I noticed something rather heart-warming: a diverse group of people, of all ages and both genders, were present and visibly excited to be witnessing a ballet adaption of Edward Scissorhands.
This appeal to all demographics is something that Matthew Bourne’s reworked version of the popular film succeeds greatly in doing, through the combination of contemporary dance, comedy and ballet. Bourne kicked off the evening with a guest appearance to introduce a ‘Curtain Raiser’ – a charity supported performance before the show, giving young local dancers the opportunity to devise and perform a short piece – and the main performance, much to the crowds delight.
Youthful exuberance oozed from the children as the audience experienced five wonderful minutes of entertainment in the ‘Curtain Raiser’, showcasing a wealth of promising talent for the future of ballet in Birmingham. The piece focussed on suburban family life and followed their average working day, with their daily activities brought to life through dance. The audience loved it, with the local school children who had come to support their peers cheering and screaming – a pleasant change to the polite applause which I have experienced at previous, more classic ballets.
A splendid performance
With the starter over and our appetites whet, it was time for the main course, and what a splendid performance it was too. Bourne’s ability to modernise ballet and combine it with contemporary dance is special, and I think that the reason the crowd enjoyed the performance so much was due to the combination of young and old. His comical style was what really brought the stage to life with quaint slapstick moments, including a trembling pumpkin, a head-banging metal-head son of the local vicar, and my personal favourite, Edward’s mocking of the jock boyfriend Jim, exaggerating a strut before thrusting his middle scissor up behind his back.
As a drama student, this got me thinking about the relevance of theatre and, in particular, ballet to the younger generation. I have really started to notice in theatres an exciting ambition for innovation, with more and more young faces among the audience. This is very promising for the theatre as the general consensus within society is that it is a dying platform for entertainment, only appealing to an older generation. What I am witnessing is ballet, musicals and other forms of performance now making the crossover between generations, with cheaper ticket schemes for students and modernisation through platforms, such as spoken word and urban dance, drawing in the younger crowds.
The collision of ballet and popular culture is something that the younger audience want
Another perfect example of a recent modernisation of ballet is Sergei Polunin’s viral video of him dancing to Hozier’s Take Me To Church. The passionate video has received over seven million views on YouTube and has been shared across all forms of social media by the younger generation. As with Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands, it appears that the collision of ballet and popular culture is something that the younger audience want. And slowly, through platforms such as social media, ballet is eliminating the stereotype of a bourgeois, exclusive form of entertainment.
However, unfortunately, the social stigma still remains in most schools, including my own, that as a male, you cannot like theatre. Instead, you will experience name-calling and ridiculing and, if you’re lucky, the comments may die down in sixth form if you don’t talk about it too much.
Yet male ballerinas are far from just men in tights. Ballet requires more balls than most bullying schoolboys have if you put them together. To simultaneously move with such precision, flexibility, power and grace requires endless dedication and focus, which most of these boys wouldn’t be able to hack for more than a day before complaining about how much they ache. It is with these thoughts that I personally think ballet should be part of the Physical Education curriculum in schools. It would give students strong cores, high levels of flexibility (thus reducing chances of injury in the future) and incredible balance. It would mean young students can comprehend what is required of ballerinas and would potentially spur a boost in participation in dance classes, increasing the interest and attendance at the theatre.
It is vital to maintain innovation
If we are to continue this new modernisation of ballet, into a more popular light, it is vital to maintain the innovation of these platforms. In removing the stigma of theatre not being for boys, more of the younger generations will begin to fill the seats of theatres, not only saving the theatre from dying out, but aiding this current burst of energy which I have witnessed over the past year.