Coppelia: The Russian State Ballet of Siberia – Review – Hull New Theatre
By Karl Hornsey, January 2020
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia are back at Hull New Theatre this week with four different ballets over five days, with Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker to come, following the opening night’s performance of Coppelia. This charming comedy of errors features the music of Delibes and is a simple tale of misunderstanding and a lovers’ tiff, all thanks to the machinations of the curious Dr Coppelius and his doll creation, Coppelia.
The story centres on Swanilda, played by the remarkable Anna Fedosova, who captivated the audience every time with her every move on stage, delivering a truly stunning performance that captured the essence of her character and the comedy of the occasion. Swanilda and Franz (Yury Kudryavtsev) are engaged to be married, but Franz’s eye is taken by the sight of a beautiful girl sat reading on the balcony of the house of toymaker Dr Coppelius. Or at least he thinks she’s a girl, when in fact, she is a creation of the strange doctor’s, that is so lifelike as to appear human to all who look up at her.
Naturally this leads Swanilda to take the hump with her betrothed, who spends the rest of his time trying to win back her affections, while still attempting to catch the eye of the alluring and mysterious Coppelia on the balcony. Through the subtle art of mime and dance, the story progresses with the doctor, played with a mixture of frivolity and a distinctly sinister air by Alexander Kuimov, trying to lure Franz into his house to help aid his own nefarious intentions.
Franz manages to resist enough to stay clear of his clutches, and the opening scene reaches a conclusion as Swanilda and her friends find a key to the doctor’s house and let themselves in, unable to keep their curiosity at bay, at the same time as Franz scales the walls, determined at last to meet Coppelia.
The workshop that they find contains some of the doctor’s creations, but, much to Swanilda’s relief, she realises that Coppelia is in fact only a doll, and sets about teaching Franz a lesson, and poses as Coppelia. Meanwhile, Franz has his hands full warding off the maniacal doctor, who, quite naturally, is not too chuffed at this invasion of his home, though his hopes of bringing his doll to life are thwarted, largely because he doesn’t realise that Swanilda has already taken her place.
This is where Fedosova really comes into her own, dancing at first with robotic movements in her disguise as Coppelia, before moving beautifully around the workshop in her efforts to flee alongside her forgiven lover and keep him from falling prey to the doctor’s wicked intentions, with the curtain falling as the doctor realises his plans have come to nothing.
The second act, as is often the case, allows the cast to showcase their talents in a series of dances, this time based on a festival of celebration for the wedding of Swanilda and Franz, who has clearly been forgiven for his wandering eye. Having not had an awful lot to do in the first act, there is the chance for the impressive Kudryavtsev to demonstrate the full range of his skills in this section, while Fedosova is utterly mesmerising as her character celebrates in style.