Pros: The dancing was superb from all the cast, there were no weak links and I was astounded by particularly impressive performances from the leads.
Cons: Even taking into account the fact the show is aimed at children, the narrative occasionally felt stilted, over-explaining some elements of the story.
The Peacock Theatre is the West End home of Sadlers Wells, the world leader in contemporary dance. While in a fantastic location, I was slightly disappointed with the theatre itself. On seeing a ballet featuring the future stars of English National Ballet, I have to admit I expected more luxury. The theatre feels very institutional, and while the auditorium itself is impressive with adequate legroom and comfort, the rest of the building failed to meet my expectations.
My First Ballet: Coppélia is the third in the My first … series which aims to bring ballet to a young audience “in a fun and accessible way”. I would say that the show definitely succeeds, in an auditorium packed full of many aspiring ballerinas the sense of anticipation was contagious. I felt quite underdressed surrounded by girls in pink tutu’s and tightly wound buns! It is obviously aimed at children, from the programme filled with puzzles and colouring-in opportunities to the flashing pink wands for sale. However there was enough to keep adult audience members as engaged and enchanted as the children.
The cast features second year students of English National Ballet School alongside current English National Ballet artists. I by no means consider myself a ballet expert (in fact this is my very own ‘first ballet’ excluding one I was too young to remember) but the dancing was incredible. The strength and stamina displayed, particularly by Archie Sullivan who played Franz, was spectacular. I certainly felt like I was watching dancers on the brink of great success. Olivia Lindon as the doll was also brilliant, she reminded me of the doll sequence in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – quite unnerving in many ways.
The story of Coppélia suits a children’s ballet well and is told clearly through a narrator. The use of a narrator generally worked well in explaining the story where younger children may have become lost. Perhaps because I don’t have children and don’t watch many children’s plays, it felt like the narrative wasn’t always needed. To me they were over explaining things. The narrative also unfortunately felt stilted sometimes, these are dancers and not actors, and this was made clear in certain moments.
The production is generally well executed and I was particularly enchanted by the set. Two main sets are used, the street and the inside of Dr Coppélius’ house. The street set is all warm colours, complemented by the country-style costumes, all of which helped to transport me out of the chilly West End. Dr Coppélius’ house/workshop – where mechanical dolls come alive – was very effective, with spooky walls and décor it makes the perfect setting for the eccentric inventor.
This is a show for children, and with that demographic, it succeeds. Watching the very young girl next to me jump from her seat and start trying to copy the dancers on the stage, I could see how enchanted the audience was. Saying that, I went on my own and was still completely transported into the world of Coppélia. I probably had the same mesmerised look on my face as the children around me for much of the show!
Choreographer: George Williamson (after an original production by Ronanld Hynd).
Director: George Williamson
Producer: English National Ballet
Box Office: 0844 412 4300
Booking Until: 19 April 2014 (tours until 25 May).