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KVN Dance Company - Coppelia

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KVN Dance Company

Coppelia ****

Marylebone Theatre, London, 24 April 2024



Michael Downing as Dr Coppelius, Rosie Southall as Coppelia, Zach Parkin as Franz.  Photo credit:  Hettie Pearson


Whilst many people were watching the Royal Ballet in Swan Lake last night, I headed down to the Marylebone Theatre, just a few doors away from the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street.  The mystery here is how I had never heard of this lovely little venue, having worked nearby and lived quite nearby for years!


Nor had I previously heard of the KVN Dance Company.  Founded by Kevan Allen, their aim is to attract new audiences to dance by expanding its possibilities and making it fun and accessible.  If their production of Coppelia is anything to go by, they are succeeding beautifully.


The programme states on its cover “Coppelia, Classic Remixed: Classic Reborn”.    I usually roll my eyes when I see the words ‘reimagined for contemporary audiences’ or suchlike; last night I entered the theatre with an open but slightly dubious mind, and left it having had a delightful and eye-opening two hours of theatre and dance.



Zach Parkin as Franz, Rosie Soutall as Coppelia.  Photo credit:  Hettie Pearson


The reason this reimagining of Coppelia works so well is that the original score and ballet/story are all treated with respect.  The music and choreography are deconstructed and rebuilt into a narrative that works.  Delibes’ glorious music is used extensively, but is expanded and added to by Swedish musician Rickard Berg.  Allen didn’t feel the need to revise the ending nor change the basic story, for which I am very grateful.  The piece opens with the villagers galivanting in the square, and Dr Coppelius is introduced as the eccentric we know from the original.  From there, the story moves on apace, and the combination of wit and pathos remains.  The choreography is fun and clever, the costumes (by Wendy Olver) a delight, and the set (by Justin Williams) is light and buoyant in the outside scenes, dark and broody in Dr Coppelius’ lab.  The other toys in the attic are gorgeously dressed and come to life with sparkle and zest.  Praise also goes to Mike Robertson’s atmospheric lighting, especially in Coppelius’ workshop.  I was even more impressed with the costumes and set when I read in the programme that the company is almost entirely sustainable, and everything is made from second-hand materials that have been acquired and donated. 



Ellie Fergusson as Swanilda.  Photo credit:  Hettie Pearson


As for the cast, the company is made up of 12 dancers, all of whom were clearly having a ball onstage.  Most of them are from theatre schools and thus were able to handle various styles of dance and make them all meld into one delightful work.  Rosie Southall as Coppelia was a very convincing doll, transformed from her original raggedy state into a gorgeous girl with just a skirt and toreador ruffled blouse.  She made it easy to believe that foolish Franz could be attracted to her and be duped into thinking she was real. Michael Downing as Coppelius and Zach Parkin as Franz both gave notable performances, striking just the right balance between comedy and drama.    Ellie Ferguson as Swanhilda was innately balletic and gave us a feisty but ultimately kind, empathetic and forgiving young bride.  She was happy and wanted Dr Coppelius to be, too.  Her insistence that the villagers accept him into their society made for a joyous ending, celebrating both a wedding and life itself. 



Ellie Fergusson as Swanilda, Zack Parkin as Franz.  Photo credit:  Hettie Pearson


This reimagining of a classic works on all fronts, and like Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake I can imagine that this one has the potential to inspire many people, especially young ones, to want to see the original, classical version.  I know that Bourne’s Lake was the route to a love of classical ballet for many people back in the 90s; maybe this will be the case for this generation via Coppelia, albeit on a smaller scale.



Sophie Tierney as Mrs Pumpernickel. Photo credit:  Hettie Pearson


Speaking of scale, this company is self-funded and deserves to continue and to be seen as widely as possible.  They are at the Marylebone Theatre until April 27th and are touring around the country (details on their website) until the end of June.  Catch them if you can.  Last night they made my cold, grey day a whole lot brighter and warmer with this innovative, fun and bold production.

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