The first time I saw the epic, gothic film ‘Edward Scissorhands’, I fell in love with Johnny Depp. It began as a childhood crush but developed into fierce curiosity. I didn’t want to marry the man (though now I’d oblige!). I didn’t even want to hug him or demand an autograph to cry over later. Nope, I wanted questions answered. Burning questions…

Why can’t my dad cut hedges like you?
How do you cut your nails?
Why is your face so white?

And above all…

How on earth do you go to the toilet without chopping your, erm…?

Obviously, it’s a good thing I never came face to face with Johnny Depp or Edward Scissorhands. We have both been spared the embarrassment of childish curiosity. My questions, however, remained unanswered – that was, until my encounter with Richard Winsor and Sam Archer. The talented 23-year old dancers share the role of Edward Scissorhands in the magical new adaptation of the classic Tim Burton motion picture and seem set to wow audiences throughout the UK.

The man talented enough to take on such a feat is Matthew Bourne and his company New Adventures. After global success with his magical interpretations of Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Highland Fling and the award-winning Play Without Words, he choreographed the hit musical Mary Poppins. Never one to avert a challenge, he is now bringing us the dance spectacle ‘Edward Scissorhands’.

It’s not often you find yourself stumbling in on masters at work… but I recently caught a brief glimpse of wizardry at the show’s rehearsal, and even managed to chat to the two lead performers Richard Winsor and Sam Archer. You’ll be pushed to find two more lovely and down-to-earth guys. Not only can they dance, but they can also putt a mean golf ball or two. What’s more, Richard even managed to shed some light on my toilet queries. Watch out Johnny, I have a new favourite now!

Q: Richard, you are sharing the lead role in Matthew Bourne and New Adventures’ latest creation: Edward Scissorhands. Now, I personally can’t wait to see the performance… it’s a childhood classic (as is Johnny Depp!) What can the eager fans expect from the stage performance?

A: The general themes are going to be very similar and obviously the character is going to be taken pretty much straight from the main character… although, he’s going to have a slightly different costume. He’s going to have a brown and more beat up kind of costume. But the make-up and the feeling will be similar.

The music is going to be taken from the film but slightly adapted as well, so it’s also going to have the big grand feel of fairytale music.

Q: Were you a fan of Tim Burton’s original film?

A: I loved it – I saw it obviously quite a long time ago. I wasn’t in the theatre business then so I didn’t really relate to it on that level but Matthew wanted to do this show on the stage for about six years now and the time is right now. He’s got the company together and if anyone can do it, it’s him.

He is a legend…

Q: Richard, I know you won regional honours at rugby when you were young. What made dancing take first place and when did you start to do it professionally?

A: I was at a private school; back at home in Nottinghamshire and my mother actually had her own local dancing school. Obviously, that helped me get into it at a young age. I really did rebel against it I have to say. I wasn’t pleased so much but I guess I just didn’t like the idea of performing – that was the problem. I loved the feeling I got from performing but didn’t like the actual rigorous training – and I really loved playing sport. As you mentioned, I played rugby up until the age of sixteen – I played for County and the Midlands and had England trials (laughs) when I was about fifteen but didn’t think I was ever really going to be a professional rugby player. To be honest, training-wise, dancing is far more strenuous and physically demanding.

But… I never wanted to be a professional ballet dancer – it was just had a kind of discipline. I went to dancing school and drama school alongside it. I had a whole combination and really found Matthew’s work appealing at the end of it all.

Q: Was the auditioning process a long one?

A: I didn’t have to audition and nor did Sam. I’ve been working with Matthew on and off for about 4 years and have done three or four other shows with him, and have created two others, so he knows the characters very well and know what they can deliver.

He has had auditioned for the ensemble and that has gone on for about three or four months prior to the start. He knows what we’re capable of and what we can offer him.

Q: How long does is take you to transform your appearance into Edward Scissorhands?

A: At the moment, we’ve been in the costume about three or four different times – because we’ve had photo shoots for Times magazine and things like that. At the moment make-up is taking and hour to an hour and a half. The costume itself takes about 20 minutes to put on because we’ve got a big padded lycra suit underneath, then a leather kind of armoury type suit over the top and it’s very body-hugging so we have to be all strapped in when it’s on our body. It takes about three people to help us into the costume, then 45 minutes to an hour to finish it all. And once we’ve got it on we can’t actually go to the toilet…

Q: I was going to ask you… how on earth do you take a toilet break? With those blades on your fingers it could be pretty risky business…

A: Well, it’s just not going to happen. We have to get changed about an hour before the show.

Q: What is your training and rehearsal schedule like? I’d imagine it’s gruelling and do you have to work hard to stay in shape? There aren’t any crazy diets or anything are there?

A: No, (laughs) there really isn’t…. Sam and I do have a different physique and the hands are… well, not heavy as such, but they make us move in a different way. We have physio during the week to help prevent strain on our shoulders, elbows and back. We are doing extra things – we do a class every day for an hour and a half and the whole company has rehearsals from 10.00 until 11.30 where we warm up and do a ballet class or a contemporary class. Basically, rehearsals takes so much out of you that you don’t have to change your diet or anything because you burn it all off anyway.

Q: Matthew Bourne is a legend in his own right… and has been hailed as “the best thing to have happened to British dance in the past 20 years” (The Mail on Sunday). I know you’ve worked with him on the ‘Little Mermaid’ and on the creation of ‘Play Without Words’ (June 2002). Also on ‘Spitfire’ – What has it been like to work with the man himself?

A: It is absolutely fantastic to work with Matthew… I mean, I can’t imagine working with any other choreographer or director at the moment because he is so into what he’s creating. He knows what he wants to put across to the audience and what he wants us to put across to the audience. He knows how to develop a character and will give us a kind or a freedom to work with the character. With Edward especially, we hope that it will be different – from the beginning when we start to six months down the line…we’ll have developed the character and he allows us to do that and gives us such good tips and really knows what he wants.

It’s great to have someone like that trusting you – it’s brilliant.

Q: Are there any jaw dropping scenes in the new performance?

A: Gosh, well… there’s a point when Edward is in a big Christmas ball and we are a little bit drunk and we lose control of ourselves and break out into a big well, ‘solo’ of sorts. Difficult to explain – but it’s a combination of lots of different styles. In the film Edward was a very good mimic – he was taught by films and books. He’d seen all the old Fred Astaire films and ballet films and from those memories he could go into these routines and solos – without any prior warning. There is one really big scene in which he just goes off and finds lots of different ways of moving; falling and capturing the characters around him. He pulls them into his dance and it’s very impressive.

Q: Swan Lake moved me to tears and converted this little ballet virgin for life… I’m now hooked. Perhaps the most powerful thing for me was observing the grace and talent of the all male dancers. Is this one a testosterone filled performance or do we have the best of both worlds in this one?

A: The cast is mixed… it’s 50/50 with girls and boys. There are some beautiful women in the company and some very good-looking, strong men. I would say less testosterone than swan Lake but it makes up for it in the kind of atmospheric quality that the film itself has – and Matthew brings it to the stage. Also, the music is just so powerful – like Swan Lake but this music is has more of a modern feeling. It’s more of an up-to-date score that we can really play with.

Q: What do you get up to when you’re not dancing?

A: Sam and I are actually flatmates – which everyone finds quite interesting. We’ve been flatmates for over a year and a half before we even got this part so it’s quite a coincidence. We play golf a lot – it’s the one way to be competitive without getting injured. It’s good for relaxation too.

Q: So, do you think you’ll see Johnny in the audience sometime soon?

A: Certainly, he said he’s going to come along with Tim Burton as well.

Q: Better yet, have you drawn on him for advice on playing the mysterious scissor-handed man?

A: No but I think we probably will do so – we’ve been watching the film an awful lot and have read a lot of interviews that he and Tim Burton have given on the film. So, in that sense, we’ve drawn on what he’s said but we haven’t particularly spoken to him yet. It would be nice to. So if he’s out there… come along!

Good luck with the London opening night Richard, Sam, Matthew and all the cast and crew – it has been wonderful to chat to you – we’ll see you on stage.

Just remember, to limit your fluid intake before the show guys!

Edward Scissorhands runs from the 22 Nov 2005 to 5 Feb 2006 at Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, Islington, London, EC1R 4TN.

If the bite-sized morsel I sampled in the rehearsal is anything to go by, you don’t want to miss it!