The Stanislavsky Ballet put on just six shows of their new production of Roland Petit’s version of the Delibes’ ballet Coppélia at the London Coliseum recently, but as the company tours frequently it is likely that there will be many more chances to catch the production. Roland Petit’s 1970s retelling of this 19th century classic has never been to everybody’s taste, but I found it entertaining and cheeky. In this production the sets are simple and the classical costumes stunning. Petit stripped the ballet of all its original rustic quaintness, leaving an uncomplicated story of love and jealousy, and the end result is fun and very approachable. The Stanislavsky Ballet’s young superstar, Sergei Polunin, has at 24 already been hailed as the greatest dancer since Nureyev and Baryshnikov, and there was little doubt of who the star was here – the first act solo with its grand jetes and barrel leaps had the audience cheering uncharacteristically loudly. His relationship with ballet may be ambivalent, but none of his bad-boy antics were on display here, except when channelled into his dance. He is technically flawless, and a charismatic, energetic stage presence, but also supportive of his leading lady, Kristina Shapran, and of his rival in love (a hilariously camp Anton Domashev). This is a production and performance that will appeal particularly to adult audiences – visually stunning, lean in narrative and full of choreographical fireworks playing up the talents of its performers.
The Coliseum is a decent venue for this type of show. Let down by National Rail, I arrived about ten minutes after the curtain had risen, and watched the first act from the back of the dress circle. While the view is good for ballet (in opera the surtitles are not visible from half of the circle seats), the overhanging gallery muffles the sound of the orchestra – a problem well-known by those who frequent this theatre – so it is advisable to spend a bit more on tickets and sit as far forward as possible, particularly if going to opera. The staff were friendly and understanding to a latecomer, pointing me to the best possible seat available. The public interval areas are perhaps a bit too cramped for the number of people the auditorium holds; thankfully there are enough toilets, but bar queues tend to be long and bars understaffed. I recommend, if at all possible, reserving and paying for interval drinks for groups beforehand to avoid both headache and thirst. The Coliseum, like the Royal Opera House around the corner, is ideally located for a good evening out; if staying in London for the night, there are plenty of post-show dinner places within walking distance.