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REVIEW: Coppélia ★★★★ at Sunderland Empire

Birmingham Royal Ballet present
Coppélia ★★★★
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 7th April 2018

Coppélia was the first ballet that we had enjoyed in the days before the North East Theatre Guide started. It is a pleasure to return to the Birmingham Royal Ballet production for a review. The show is both delightful and accessible.  A live orchestra creates the familiar score whilst the dancers do a wonderful job of creating the narrative. It is a great introduction to ballet - no wonder the theatre was packed full of younger fans on their Easter holidays.

Old Dr Coppelius (Michael O'Hare) is a great inventor and, arguably, a magician. He has built a mechanical doll Coppélia (Yaoqian Shang) and he wants to bring it to life. One day, he puts it on his balcony posed reading a book. Swanlida (Miki Mizutani) who lives opposite the life like doll lets on but she is ignored. Her sweetheart Franz (Tzu-Chao Chou) pays the new arrival a lot more attention. The Burgomaster (Jonathan Payn) announces that the Duke (Fergus Campbell) invites everyone to a fete in the grounds of his mansion to celebrate the new bell he is gifting to the local church.  But before the festivities the young people want to investigate what is really going on in the house opposite.

Don't underestimate the proficiency of the cast in their immaculate dancing and careful storytelling throughout acts 1 and 2. The choreography throughout all three acts makes the narrative clear. Add dashes of humour, with the principles breaking the fourth wall and the result is an exceptionally engaging performance.

We don’t tend to mention the programme.  Perhaps we should? It is a lavish design with some wondered shots of the cast in action. I mention it as an effort has been made to explain the plot both in adult prose and in cartoon form for the younger members of the audience.  It is this careful attention to detail to keep the younger members of the audience engaged for which the Birmingham  Royal Ballet should be congratulated.

Acts one and two are full of enchanting fairy tales. Act three, and the gala give the large cast to show off their dancing talents. Each routine eliciting warm applause from the enthusiastic Sunderland audience.

The set changes fully during each interval.  There is an oil painting quality to each design, from the town scene to the inventor’s house, to the grounds of the mansion. Lighting picks off the interior lighting as doors open.

The principals give a vibrant performance that draws the audience in. The chorus individually and collectively play their part too. The choreography is intricate at times as the ensemble move around the Empire stage. Act 2, in particular, gave a chance for them to shine more as individuals.

This is both a great piece for the fans of ballet and it a joyful introduction to the art form for both younger and older members of the audience.

Finally, one needs to mention the large orchestra that performs the memorable Leo Delibes score. Several rows of the stalls have been removed in to order to accommodate conductor Paul Murphy and his musicians. They fill the historic Sunderland venue with a fabulous sound and don't put a foot wrong all night.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online from our affiliate ATG Tickets at *
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