Cutting edge of Lord of Dance

Known as the Lord of the Dance, some wonder if Matthew Bourne has bitten off more than he can chew with his latest production - a dance version of the Hollywood movie Edward Scissorhands. The glitzy production is being staged at Norwich Theatre Royal. Sarah Hardy finds out what drives him on and where he goes from here.

Matthew Bourne has been the golden boy of the dance world for the best part of a decade. Everything he has touched from his legendary all-male Swan Lake to his Trainspotting-inspired Highland Fling, which played to packed houses in Norwich last year, has been a huge hit.

Bourne, an Eastender who didn't get into ballet until he was in his early 20s, is usually credited with encouraging people, especially the so-called younger generation, to be interested in this most challenging of art forms.

If you're not familiar with his work, don't imagine that it is all froth and frou frou. Tutus are rarely spotted, he loves to make his audiences laugh and do watch out for homo-erotic scenes as they crop up everywhere!

His choreography is always extravagant, too, with Bourne explaining: “I worry about the audience getting bored. I can't stand that thought so I always try to keep people guessing, keep offering the unexpected!”

His projects, run through his New Adventures company, have got considerably grander over the years, with Bourne clearly getting more confident and getting more of that all-important financial backing. He now, for example, has a decent 11-week run at Sadler's Wells in London which is very good for his bank balance.

“Yes, we recoup some of our costs and this allows us to tour. And, it also gives us a base, people will know where they can find us, they can write to us here.”

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His latest production is something that he's been wanting to undertake for almost eight years. It's a dance version of the highly-popular Edward Scissorhands, originally a hit Tim Burton movie with the highly-charismatic Johnny Depp in the title role.

It's had what you'd call mixed reviews and Matthew, now in his mid 40s, readily admits that he set himself a hard task. The piece is basically a fairytale which tells of an elderly inventor who creates a boy but leaves him unfinished, with only scissors as hands.

Edward struggles to find his place in a small-minded cutesy community where he falls in love with a girl called Kim. Another boy is involved and yes, as you'd guess, there's no happy ending.

Bourne explains that he was attracted to it because of its lead character, Edward - the ultimate outsider - saying: “I think we can all relate to that feeling of being different. I was always the quiet one at school but anyone who has ever felt that they don't belong has experienced those senses of isolation and loneliness.”

Bourne is also fascinated by suburbia, where he grew up, and where he firmly deposits his would-be hero, Edward.

“Those close-knit communities, where you have to fit in and everyone keeps an eye on you, can be suffocating. The neighbours struggle to understand and help Edward but ultimately, they turn against him because he isn't like them.”

You can tell that this show has had plenty of cash - £1.3m in fact - spent on it and the fairly lengthy rehearsal time of three months.

The two-hour show is certainly dramatic and captures the pathos of the story. It's quite black and bleak for Bourne but there are his trademark moments of humour and a huge amount of effort has gone into the set and the costumes. Just look out for the fabulous pieces of topiary.

Bourne also puts a lot of trust in his dancers and they in turn are very loyal.

“I do love them. I'd never raise my voice, I think a lot of thems.

“I can never understand why they are not valued more. In other countries, they're treated the way we treat footballers or rock stars,” he adds.

This time, the title role is shared by two favourites, Sam Archer and Richard Winsor, while Kerry Biggin and Hannah Vassallo share the love interest role of Kim Boggs.

He's looking forward to visiting Norwich, saying: “I'm treated like an old friend, everyone is always very welcoming and Peter (Wilson, the theatre's artistic director) has always been a big supporter.”

Dancing has always been a part of Bourne's life. He loved watching old black and white movies, especially musicals, as a boy and still reckons it's his favourite past-time.

But what's next for Bourne?

He usually likes to combine his own project with another one with others. He has recently enjoyed working with theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh and his version of Mary Poppins that has been seen by millions around the world

“There's always lots of ideas going round in my head, it'll be time to stop when there isn't. But,” he says, leaning forward in an almost conspiratorial fashion, “what I fancy doing next is a Broadway show.”

So he remains an old-fashioned showman at heart. Fred Astaire would be proud of him.

t Edward Scissorhands opens at the Theatre Royal, Norwich, from TuesdayFebruary 28 untilSaturdayMarch 4. For more details telephone the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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