Matthew Bourne discussed his work with Wendy Perrin, the editor of Dance Magazine at BAM. His dance version of Edward Scissorhands is on at BAM through March 31st. She introduces him as someone who has taken his love for musical theater and created dance theater without the voice part.
He tried acting at 15. This is how he has found to express himself. It is the freedom to create, having only one rule, there is no voice, but can use all styles. It is not necessarily dancing, also acting. It is very character based. Each character has a whole life story. The character comes before the movement.
He is asked how he casts his productions. He uses traied dancers and he tends to attract the people who want to express the acting in what they do. He wants them to contribute and to look like they come from the real world, not cloned. They are not costumed identically. You gain character, individuality, a wealth of detail. You also lose the ability to make the stage unified. The dancers have to go for precision rather than energy and have to work doubly hard to be understood. The costume is working against them.
He is very conscious of the audience and is telling the story to everyone, of different ages, backgrounds. A child can enjoy something on a diferent level from an adult. Wendy Perrin contributes that her father liked Swan Lake, he was ok with it and he doesn’ exactly go to gay clubs.
Matthew Bourne continues that he is not interested in shocking the audience; he is interested in surprising the audience.
Has he ever tried to do a plotless, abstract ballet? In school, in London, at age 22 (he was late to dance training.) he did what he was taught. He then went to do what was true to him…Characters over body dancing. He loved watching it but was uncomfortable with it, with not knowing who you are, being just a body.
As he worked on Edward Scissorhands, Caroline Thompson, the screenwriter was by his side. It is based ona stray dog who needed to be loved and taken care of. Also, how do we treat people who are different? The hands are symbolic of anything different. The story is bigger than the crazy story. The setting was changed from the 80s to the 50s in order to present it to a British audience who are used to those symbols of America from sitcoms and movies.
In Lez Brotherston, designer, he has found a likeminded person so he does not have to explain much when going into a production.
How does he feel about the symbol of success at the end of the film Billy Elliot being Billy dancing in his version of Swan Lake. He says it makes sense for the character since he is rebellious. Can’t imagine him being the prince in Swan Lake at Covent Garden. It is a letdown. In the original script sent to him 2 years prior to the making of the film that was the ending! He becomes a dancer in Swan Lake at Covent garden. When he returned the script he threw out there that it would make sense for him to be in his production of Swan Lake. Adam Cooper left the Royal Ballet to do [New Adventure‘s] Swan Lake. And he is the dancer at the end of Billy Elliot.
What will he do next? He is not sure. Mary Poppins [He choreographed the Broadway show.] and Edward Scissorhands took ten years. He is taking a year off and possibly will work on a small production that has a chance to fail. It is a privelege he has because of the other shows he is involved with. Play without Words, which had been performed at BAM, was meant to be a two week production not a touring show.
How did he choose Edward Scissorhands to adapt as most in the audience could probably think of a film or work they would love for him to adapt. He felt the film was driven by music and he is attracted to outsider characters. It is great for a designer since it is both gothic and suburban. The music is the main thing.
How do his works change over time? The audience may not notice but those involved know all the changes that are there. He changes the choreography and states that he is an “absolute meddler in my own work.” He says he cannot watch DVDs of his works as they are fixed entities. In Swan Lake there is a new cellphone gag that hadn’t been in previously.
Has he ever rejected an idea outright as being to crazy to do? He doesn’t reject anything that he has thought of. It may be recycled into the next project he works on.
He has learned from directors he has worked with on Oliver! (Cameron Mackintosh) Sam Mendes, Trevor Nunn.
His dancers talk like actors. At the National Theatre he asked for the principals to be called actors. There is still a heirarchy where dancers are at the bottom and it is also a matter of payscale. Even in the small roles they are creating a whole character’s world they call them performers.
An Italian journalist asks where he gets his spark of creativity from. He brings ideas together for a big idea. With Swan Lake it was the idea of the male swans and royal scandal. Is his lover an animal, a man or in his head.
For Cinderella, Prokofiev wrote it in the time of WWII so set it there.
Car Man was inspired by the Postman Always Rings Twice.
Who would he like to work with? He generally looks to the past for inspiration but he would like to work with Rufus Wainwright.
I’m glad I went to the talk. I had seen Swan Lake in Tel Aviv so it was very cool to hear him discuss his work. Am going to make sure to see this Edward Scissorhands production.
More Matthew Bourne on Edward Scissorhands here. Below are related photos and media: