Matthew Bourne has often been regarded for his idiosyncratic adaptations of classic tales. He blends various genres of dance in a daring way which pushes and pulls against custom. He denies any categorisation of his work with one seeming aim – to push back harder with each new move.
With the international success of Bourne’s daring re-imagination of the classic ballet Swan Lake many thought that he could go no further. It seemed that with the curtain fall, there was nothing more to glimpse which might contain such a subversive quality as that of the powerful casting of the all-male swans. And although I must admit none of his other work quite reaches the potency of this sinister reworking of a once delicate tale, Bourne has glided from strength to strength, to become a titan of the dance world.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that many aspiring young dancers work towards the goal of joining Bourne’s New Adventures Company. Liam Mower is one such dancer who has been a part of the New Adventures team for a number of years now, having first appeared as one of the two cupids in Bourne’s Nutcracker in 2011. Mower has recently taken on the role as Edward in Edward Scissorhands which has been revived by Bourne after its initial debut ten years ago.
Mower said: “After my role as Billy Elliot in the West end, I later went on to train for three years with Rambert. It was then that I started to take an interest in Bourne’s Company. I had seen a number of his shows and knew then that his work was something worth being a part of. He’s constantly pushing the boundaries – I don’t think there is a limit to his work.
“All of his productions tell a story; there is always a strong narrative quality, which is what I think makes his productions so popular – the audience is transported by the range of his choreography”.
Bourne’s transformation of Edward Scissorhands to the stage after the popularity of Tim Burton’s 1990 film caused quite a stir back in 2005, when it first hit Sadler’s Wells. “It has never been done anywhere else; it was the first time it had been thought to adapt it for the stage, it was a pretty daring move, particularly as a dance performance. Matthew saw that the scissorhands could make for an interesting challenge to his choreography, and he plays upon this aspect to great effect”.
When I asked Mower about what it was like putting on the hands, he told me, “The costume becomes a massive part of the show. It was so different to anything I’d ever done before. At first I felt so restricted. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it though; it becomes a part of your body.
“A lot of the choreography is adapted to suit the scissorhands. When you get the hands on it is a completely different sensation and feeling. For two weeks of the rehearsal period I was without the scissorhands, so when I finally put them on, it completely transformed the effect of my movements. It felt like the choreography made more sense with the hands in play”.
The range of genres Bourne incorporates into the show is something which has always been a strength; his dancers are given a freedom of movement through this blending of various dance styles which challenges his dancers to really move with the personality of the character.
Mower said: “It’s a different way of telling a story. Everything is less obvious, but much more powerful. The thing about working with Matthew is that he gives you so much freedom to play with the character. Obviously there is a definite foundation for the role, but Matthew wants you to understand the character and take the character for what you think it is.
“Edward is quite an awkward character; he’s a stray really but I think it’s something everyone can relate to a little bit, as we’ve all had that feeling of being an outsider. He’s a fun character to play due to the changes he goes through during the performance; he begins with the mind of a baby, and grows through his interactions with the people of Hope Springs.
“It’s a journey, not only for Edward, but for all those involved”.
Edward Scissorhands will arrive at Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday 3rd February. For more information, see: www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk/edwardscissorhands