Feathers of Daedalus
Assembly George Square Gardens
From 03 August 2017 to 28 August 2017
Review by Georgina Wells
This production sees the classical ballet story of Coppelia imaginatively reworked for George Square Gardens' circus and cabaret venue, the Spiegeltent.
A trio of ballerinas in ragged tutus act as chorus, introducing the characters and progressing the story. Dr Coppelius, his doll Coppelia, smitten young Franz and his jealous lover Swanilda perform a series of varied duets incorporating circus skills and different styles.
These aren't set pieces that have been slotted in to the story, but are chosen well to complement the moment or characters: Swanilda and Franz burst into an exuberant blend of hip hop, jive and acrobatics to show the happy innocence of their love. The beautiful Coppelia is framed not in a window, but suspended above the stage on a hoop. Once he has seen her, Franz too is trapped in a giant hoop, spinning dizzily under the influence of his longing.
The skills of the young performers are truly breathtaking at times. Dr Coppelius backflips off of his creation's shoulders, Swanilda drops from the top of the central tent pole and catches herself before she hits the ground and, in a reverse of ballet norms, Coppelia takes her creator's weight in several dramatic balances. It's a pleasant role reversal for a story that can be a troubling watch from a feminist perspective.
Whilst the music is a blend of classical and modern pop, the third element of the show's soundtrack is spoken word monologues. Designed to voice the thoughts of the three living main characters, these monologues are a less natural fit for the story but add an interesting contemporary twist. Film is also used, in the form of black and white clips that play on one of three screens. These clips, whilst pretty, don't add much to the story and aren't always easy to see thanks to the size and placement of the screens.
The only disappointing aspect of this production is its resolution—in the traditional story, Swanilda dresses up in Coppelia's clothes and imitates her in order to prevent Coppelius from murdering Franz. This crucial plot point is omitted—the lovers escape anyway, but as the most famous part of the story it would have been nice to have seen it brought to new life.