Around a year ago, Lambco productions was the first theatrical company to come back from Lockdown 1 with their production of Fanny and Stella at The Eagle London. Move forward 12 months and two more lockdowns and Lambco are back with the Garden Theatre Summer Festival at St Gabriel’s Church Hall in Pimlico. And I went along to the opening production. Coppelia and The Supermarket Suite.
This is a show of two distinct halves. Let me clarify that last statement, it is a show of two parts; The Supermarket Suite which runs for roughly 10 minutes, then Coppelia which is about 55 minutes long. The first section combined life for workers and shoppers in a modern-day supermarket with the unmistakable music of Tchaikovsky.
Coppelia, based on Delibes ballet of the same name has been brought up to date and moved to gay London where two young men are in love and getting married. Before the wedding, Freddie (Hayden Tierney) and his fiancé Simon (Lewis Rimmer) are on their combined stag/hen night with best friend Max (Jack Buchanan). The three lads pose, dance and drink their way through the night, and finally end up outside a sex shop owned by the mysterious and perverted Dr C (Thomas Buckley), where they observe a harness wearing mannequin in the window. A harmless thing you might think, but the boys need to be on their guard for the mannequin has the potential to irreparably change their lives.
Modern dance is one of my passions and I always look forward to seeing a production I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately for choreographers, my absolute hero in the world of modern dance choreography is Sir Matthew Bourne and all productions are held up against his works. So how does Coppelia and The Supermarket Suite fare when set against this standard? Truth be told, I believe that Choreographer/Director William Spencer, could easily be as big as MB. In this production, he has perfectly matched the music (given a real contemporary treatment by Aaron Clingham) with the narrative and gives the audience a wonderful story that is both complicated and easy to follow. The tale of life in a supermarket is wonderfully brought to life – the checkout section particularly – and will be instantly recognisable to anyone doing their regular grocery shop. Then, with Coppelia, William really takes it up a notch or two, with some beautifully expressive choreography guiding the audience through the ups and downs of relationships, betrayal and, let’s be honest, kinks.
Of course. None of this would be achieved without the skill of four amazingly talented dancers – not to forget the 5th member of the team, a very expressive mannequin. But back to the dancers. Tierney and Rimmer are perfect together as lovebirds Freddie and Simon, and Buchanan shines as their friend – and often peacemaker – Max. There are moments of sheer joy with these guys, particularly when Simon and Max break into Dr C’s shop. And speaking of Dr C, let’s take a moment to recognise the talents of Thomas Buckley. Playing a depraved pervert cannot be easy but Buckley really pulled it off with some perfect comic timing and wonderful facial expressions, matching his faultless dancing. The highlights of the show for me were many and included the very tender romantic scene between Freddie and Simon, made even more atmospheric by Michael Brenkley’s lighting design, and the wonderful ‘sword fight’ which has to be seen to be believed. Finally, I want to give a special mention to Hayden Tierney’s very impressive ability to sit in an uncomfortable position for ages without moving. As someone that fidgets continually, I was so impressed Tierney was able to hold a position for so long.
When something is right, you know it’s right and Coppelia and The Supermarket Suite is definitely right. The music is glorious, the choreography sublime and the dancing spectacular. As the opening production in the Garden Theatre Summer Festival, it really set a high standard. Luckily, it looks as if the other shows Bleach, Happy Ending, and Afternoon Arias will be able to reach the bar that has been set so high by this production.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Supermarket Suite in an exciting evening of narrative theatre dance inspired by the music of ‘The Nutcracker’, focusing on the everyday comedy we find in our lives. Coppelia is a timeless classical ballet that has been reimagined to showcase four phenomenal dancers and set to the backdrop of 21st century Soho.
Cast: Jack Buchanan, Thomas Edward Buckley, Lewis Rimmer, Hayden Tierney
Director/Choreographer William Spencer
Assistant choreographer Marcus Hubbard
Music by Delibes and Tchaikovsky
Orchestrated and reimagined by Aaron Clingham
Produced by Peter Bull for LAMBCO Productions