Ballet News Reviews | Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Thursday, 15th March 2012
This was a night when yet again, the men of Birmingham Royal Ballet showed just how awesome they are. This time, eight of them in perfect synchronicity, taking off, spinning and landing together, each time. And I have to say, you could have heard a pin drop on their landings, so silent were they – in stark contrast to the ladies of the company whose pointe shoes distracted at times from their dancing. Maybe it’s a ballet that calls for hard shoes, but it’s never great for the audience to have to listen to them.
And the dancing was, mostly, very good. Nao Sakuma, as Swanilda, is a little too spiky and flouncy in her early scenes; a bit of languorous fluidity and some cheekiness would be welcome. She is partnered by Chi Cao as her sweetheart Franz, which whom she appeared to have no connection whatsoever, and this gap through the middle really let the side down. Franz is more enchanted by a wooden doll – Dr Coppélius’s creation of the title – than he is with his ‘sweetheart.’ Dr Coppélius is expertly played by the incomparable Michael O’Hare – dotty, funny and endearing.
Peter Farmer’s sets, evoking a village square somewhere beyond the Eastern European borders, are wonderful. Attention to detail and colour bring them to life and invite you in. Farmer also designed the costumes, which are exquisite – golden and sparkly for Swanilda, chiffon lightness for her friends, green and red for the men of the village. Some lovely dancing from Swanilda’s friends including Samara Downs and Callie Roberts. Notable in those most Eastern European of dances – the boot dances : the Mazurka and Czárdás were Laëtitia Lo Sardo and Steven Monteith (who also danced the role of the Duke).
There are many comic moments – when Swanilda and her friends decide to enter Dr Coppélius’s house and the last one over the threshold crosses herself as no-one in the village knows what he does and there have been random bangs and explosions coming from that direction. They get in just ahead of Franz, who climbs in through the window, only to find that Dr Coppelius has drugged his wine and he falls asleep. Swanilda has hidden while her friends are driven away by Dr Coppélius, and she tricks him into believing that his creation, Coppelia, has really come to life. Sakuma is good as a doll; very good, but much less convincing in the character dances. Where was the sultry heat of Spain or the brisk nip of Scotland ? It all looked the same to me. Dr Coppélius’s workshop is much more sinister than other productions – mostly black with a large silver mirror and lots of mysterious bottles and boxes (which house the other dolls who come to life when Swanilda and her friends discover them).
By the time Swanilda has been able to rouse Franz and the pair have escaped, we are in the Duke’s mansion where a new bell is being presented and a masque is beginning. The dances are meant to represent the various uses of the bell, though if you hadn’t read the programme you might have been wondering what you were watching – Father Time does look a lot like Jesus! The Dance of the Hours is well done, as is Prayer (Jenna Roberts) and Work (including Jade Heusen, Delia Mathews and again, Callie Roberts). Less successful are Dawn and Betrothal. The Call to Arms is where the men of the company fair stampede their way into the spotlight and my goodness they are impressive. Lead by Tyrone Singleton who looked tired but game, they were James Barton, William Bracewell, Feargus Campbell, Mathias Dingman, Tom Rogers, Nathanael Skelton, Benjamin Soerel and Lewis Turner.
Finally, Peace sees our couple dancing a pas de deux in golden hues. The dancing is fine but with no connection it feels like a technical exercise, in a ballet that should be all about the characters.
Coppélia is at the London Coliseum until tomorow.