Home » London Theatre Reviews » Coppelia by KVN Dance at The Cockpit | Review

Coppelia by KVN Dance at The Cockpit | Review

Like most fairy tales, there is something dark, primal and advisory about the story of Coppelia. It seems no coincidence that in the age of Instagram and following a year when it became normative to express the self and its desires principally through machines, that this gothic fetish tale about falling in love with (and being jealous of) a mechanical doll should urge a re-telling.

Marina Fraser as Swanhilder in Coppelia by KVN Dance © Andrea Whelan.
Marina Fraser as Swanhilder in Coppelia by KVN Dance © Andrea Whelan.

Visually stunning like a surrealist sculpture garden, Choreographer and Director Kevan Allen masterfully builds more than one intriguing and heavily textured world. Wendy Olver’s costume design is show-stealing. Dr Coppelius (Michael Downing) and his creation, Coppelia (Rosie Southall) occupy a steam-punk sphere that teems with fanciful characters. It’s a world of leather and brass in which we see the subconscious made phantasmagorical with the arrival of creatures and characters bedecked and transformed by feathers, plague-doctor-masks-cum-crow beaks, Benin bronze visages and dada-esque tropes. In the other world, of satin and velvet, we experience classical ballet and the wedding cake confection of the more typical comedy of manners of the popular Delibes composition. Justin Williams’ set design also crucially serves the contrast whilst cleverly and functionally being part of this production’s movement and geometry that both immerse and arrest the audience. There is something throat-grabbingly immediate and visceral about this tableau; with a startling quality like Luis Buñuel directing a Lovecraft script rather than the pretty candy-box impressionism through which fairy stories are so often refracted.

The skill, training and discipline of this young and sizeable cast is apparent and impressive. I was particularly delighted by the ensemble numbers; the pieces were both gorgeous and athletic as they slid – and with the dancers in perfect concert – seamlessly from the demands of classical ballet into hip-hop moves. The segues were layered and offered juxtaposition but fluid and pleasing movement. It is a treat to see this production in an intimate setting like the Cockpit.

With such textured and compelling sights, I only wish the production could have stretched to include live music rather than a recorded score and sound effects. The deliberate glitches from one genre to another – or the deconstruction of the mood – could have had the same glorious texture as the costumes, set and movement if even a portion of an orchestra were playing whilst a DJ added the scratching and sampling. The aural experience just didn’t match the glories of the visual one. Nonetheless, this ambitious and intriguing production of Coppelia delivers handsomely and is very much worth checking out before it closes on 11th September.

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

The KVN Dance Company presents its inaugural performances of Kevan Allen’s reimagined version of the classic ballet Coppelia.

For Coppelia Kevan will expand and develop the existing story, delving deeper into the background of the characters and immersing the audience into the sometimes-unsettling mind of Dr Coppelius.

While the traditional ballet focuses on Dr Coppelius, Swanhilder and the life-size doll that comes between them, this retelling will address his intent on creating the doll and how that impacts on his relationship with the wider community of villagers.

A dance classic. Reimagined.
Director & Choreographer: Kevan Allen
Composer: Rickard Berg
Wardrobe: Wendy Olver
Lighting: Mike Robertson
Set Design: Justin Williams

The Cockpit
Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH


  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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1 thought on “Coppelia by KVN Dance at The Cockpit | Review”

  1. Helen Carpenter-Waters

    I agree with almost all of your review. An incredible show at any time but especially during a pandemic with all the huge challenges facing dance productions. A live orchestra would add to the complications and add a huge cost to putting on a production during these uncertain times. The Show is about dance and story telling via dance and so for me the lack of live music for a dance production did not affect my love of this show.

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