Coppélia for the modern age

Post-Covid, the theatres are open and I was headed through to the ballet in Edinburgh (as part of the Festival). The trains were a nightmare with disruptions caused by the weather but that was all made bearable by the mesmerising production I was witness to on stage. I was brave and ventured into Edinburgh during Festival season to attend a production of Coppélia by Scottish Ballet – it was well worth it.

Coppélia was first performed in 1870 as a traditional ballet, complete with tutus, but this performance was brought bang up to date set in an environment of AI (Artificial Intelligence), robots and clones. The fact that our principal ballerina was wearing the kind of trouser suit you’d wear to work highlighted the fact that this was going to be different. This was a production which was going to challenge expectations.

To complement the new setting, there was also a new musical score, much more modern adding lots of tension and drama. I loved it.

Scottish Ballet’s production also stepped out of the traditional sphere of dance by using audio-visual technologies. We were hearing recordings of interviews between our Journalist and the MD of the technology company, NuLife being transmitted at the same time that we were watching them dance silently in Dr. Coppelius’ office.

Scottish Ballet have tapped into contemporary concerns about the future direction of technological advancements. People are concerned, as ever, about the risk of AI, machine learning etc allowing technology to advance to a point where it can think for itself and make decisions without our oversight or control. Scottish Ballet explores some fears and concerns being expressed today and invites us to think about the direction of travel.

Another innovative technique was to have a dancer/camera operator following the main protagonists around the stage with a video camera while the images were shared with us, projecting them onto the walls surrounding the stage.

Theatres obviously have a lot of space behind the scenes; off stage. This dramatisation of Coppélia made use of that space … by using the camera, we were taken off-stage to the labs where research and development was taking place and our AI robots were being built. Adding an extra dimension to the story.

It says something that the only negative comment I have is that the production is in one act. When we go to the theatre the ritual is ice cream at the intermission. I felt deprived that I wasn’t able to enjoy my ice cream treat.

This production of Coppélia was thoroughly enjoyable. Memorable for its innovation, good quality, enjoyable dancing and captivating musical score.

Coppélia is going on tour September and October. I wouldn’t normally consider a second viewing, but I would definitely consider this. I hope they may make and sell a recording. This really has left a lasting impression; one of the best productions by Scottish Ballet I’ve seen in 20+ years.

Bravo Scottish Ballet on an amazing portrayal of this story.

You can find out more about the ballet here:

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