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Coppelia by Birmingham Royal Ballet - Review

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Return Of The Ballet Favourite
With the timeless music of Coppelia and the enchanting, rich stage scenery, Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) is halfway to a crowd pleaser before the dancing has even begun.

BRB's Coppelia is one of those classic favourites that gets a regular airing every few years and it has returned as part of this year's summer season. I caught it at Birmingham Hippodrome where it stays until June 17 before it continues on to Bristol.

coppelia, Birmingham royal ballet, BRB, review, Birmingham Hippodrome 2017
Birmingham Royal Ballet has brought back favourite Coppelia

This time around, the BRB season has extra poignancy as it is in memory of designer and painter Peter Farmer, whose work has graced and enhanced many a BRB performance. He sadly died this year.

Coppelia is a popular choice with audiences as it's a light-hearted, often comic, adventure that is easy to follow. There's a fun element to it too of tomfoolery and toys coming to life as well as a romance in a pretty old chocolate box village.

Then there is that dreamy music by Leo Delibes, performed to its usual impeccable high standard by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Coppelia Birmingham royal ballet
Visually, the set is stunning in Coppelia

The first act sets the scene with plenty of group line-dancing and funny relationship shenanigans between Swanilda and her lover Frank, whose got a bit of a roaming eye and goes sneaking into women's homes in the middle of the night. He gets a book thrown at him, the odd slap and even a kiss along the way, all in good jest that sends trickles of laughs through the audience.

There's much more acting elements involved with Coppelia than pure ballet and that comes through in this opening act as well as Act Two when Swanilda pretends to be a doll after breaking into the home of the crazy inventor in the village, Dr Coppelius.

Nao Sakuma, who starred in the lead role of Swanilda during press night, brought through a playful vitality of naughtiness to Swanilda to add to her beautifully exact dancing. She shone on stage and was exquisite.

coppelia, Birmingham royal ballet, BRB, review, Birmingham Hippodrome 2017
The ballet is a story that young and old can enjoy

Joseph Caley as the cad Franz was a good partner to Sakuma, impressing with fine leaps and charisma. He was also The Prince in BRB's Cinderella earlier this year, when he thrilled in that role too.

Michael O'Hare, dancing as Dr Coppelius, gives a character driven performance that brings to life a zany old man devoted to his art of creating wind up dolls. You can't help but feel sorry for him when he realises that his beloved toy Coppelia has not really come to life.

It's the final third act when all the stops are pulled out and the set gets even grander for the Festival of the Bell. It showcases a series of performances in front of 'Old Father Time' including the sensual Dawn and Prayer solo dances by the talented Celine Gittens and Delia Mathews in turn.

For something a bit livelier, there's the rousing Call To Arms routine featuring well timed rows of men dressed a little like sailors, dancing sprightly in unison.

Just time for Sakuma and Caley to impress together and alone with dazzling routines to bring the tale to a close.

Coppelia Birmingham royal ballet
Group dances in Coppelia

This is a charming, enjoyable ballet but there was something missing that didn't raise this performance up to a sensation level, despite the strong leads.

Some of the group dances seemed a little out of sync in places rather than the usual impeccable timing associated with BRB and this production by Sir Peter Wright.

That said, there is something so charming about Coppelia that it is a ballet you can't help but enjoy. It's not the best that BRB has performed of late, but it's still very much a crowd-pleaser.


Coppelia by Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome
Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham B5 4TB
Box Office: 0844 338 5000; Birmingham Hippodrome website
Tuesday 13 June – Saturday 17 June

Bristol Hippodrome
St Augustine's Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ
Box Office: 0800 912 6971 or ATG Tickets website
Wednesday 28 June – Saturday 1 July
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Why? See an enchanting ballet
When: Touring until July 1
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: From £15
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