The ballet Coppélia has a remarkable capacity for re-interpretation. What better foundation for a story about ambition and power than a tale of a deranged inventor who is losing his grasp on what is real. Scottish Ballet have created a playful and modern version of this much-loved classic, taking the essence of the original and transforming it into a parable for the modern age.
Swanhilda and Franz are journalists who venture into the laboratories of Silicon Valley’s ambitious entrepreneur, Dr Coppelius. Gone is the doddery old man from the 19th century version of the ballet: this inventor is young, energetic, and charismatic and he is determined to become a kind of new age god. A large ensemble forms the sinister world of scientists and robots, and the stage space itself becomes a living, breathing character, projections cast onto three sides of the stage in larger-than-life film. Swanhilda’s curiosity leads her through the corridors of the laboratory and she is quick to see the wild dreams of Dr Coppelius as dangerous and mad. Franz, on the other hand, is true to the original story: a fool who is drawn into the strange attraction of a robot doll, preferring the digital world to true flesh and blood.
Constance Devernay is a wonderful Swanhilda, all personality and intelligence, her playful glances for the on-stage camera setting her apart from the other characters. Devernay is such an expressive dancer, with crisp technique that makes her mesmerising to watch. Bruno Micciardhi is a brilliant Dr Coppelius, the stereotypical narcissistic tech CEO, but with a mischievous and comic energy. The pas de deux with Coppélia/Swanhilda and Dr Coppelius is stunning choreography, an exciting energy rippling through the movements. Jerome Barnes is a very good Franz, a strong actor with beautiful classical lines. The cast is consistently precise and committed, working together to tell a compelling story.
Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple – the duo known as Jess and Morgs – have choreographed a clever and entertaining ballet, boldly taking and discarding whatever they wish from the original late 19th century ballet by Arthur Saint Léon. There are some fabulous moments where the familiar Delibes music finds its way into this new score by Michael Karlsson and Michael P Atkinson. These work effectively as lively points of focus, reminding us that the old story has found a new life: or ‘NuLife’ as Dr Coppelius’s AI company is wittily named.
The ballet is at once comic and sinister, ridiculous and serious, never taking itself too seriously but committing wholeheartedly to providing a superb performance, combining dance, drama and film in this exciting new creation.
- Scottish Ballet
- Direction and Choreography by Morgann Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright
- Dramaturgy and Written Text by Jeff James
- Music by Léo Delibes, Michael Karlsson, Michael P. Atkinson
- Photograph by Andy Ross
- Cast includes: Constance Devernay, Bruno Micciardhi, Jerome Barnes and Rimbaud Patron
- Sadler's Wells
- Until 5th March 2023
- Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
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