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The New Vic Theatre’s production of Coppelia is the perfect welcome back to live theatre events post-Covid. Set to be the theatre’s festive performance seven months ago, the show was rescheduled to Easter, and again this summer – but as restrictions in England lift, it makes for a great trip out for this kids this school summer holidays.
As you enter through the Coppelia archway just off the car park, you’ll wander past the wood workshop and a shed full of eyes where the totally immersive experience begins. As you stand by the wood workshop, you can hear the sounds of sawing wood as you look out for the hidden eyeballs along the trail. Guests will walk across the boardwalk, past The Sugar Plum cake shop and Dresses by Drosselmeyer, before coming across Oddenback’s Book Shp, Amadeus’ music shop, The Golden Pot and Sandman Apothecary & Opticians. The windows of the New Vic have been totally transformed by designer Lis Evans, creating a magical experience from the moment you enter.
As you reach the end of the woodland glade and street of shop fronts, you’ll find the toy shop of Dr Coppelius – a toyshop with a curious secret that one girl is determined to discover.
Swanhilde bursts into the plaza wearing a charming red coat and blue hat – a curious young girl who owns a collection of dolls. Played by East 15 Acting School graduate Corinna Brown – soon to appear in Netflix’s adaptation of Heartstopper – there’s only one more doll she so desperately wants to add to her collection: Coppelia.
Coppelia dances in Dr Coppelius’ shop window at the same time each day, and luckily, we were just in time to see it. Urdang Academy graduate Kira McPherson, playing the life-like doll in her professional debut, is phenomenal in her execution, and has completely mastered her robotic movements. But when Dr Coppelius won’t sell his creation to Swanhilde, the little girl and the audience find themselves breaking into his house in an attempt to steal her!
The audience – who have been as much a part of the show as the four cast members – head on inside the auditorium and sit socially distanced in the round. Their 600 seats were replaced during lockdown, alongside improvements to the lighting, balconies and hand holds.
Arms and legs dangle from the ceiling as we snuck inside, careful to not be seen by Dr Coppelius as he ‘feeds’ the doll. The sensory experience is second to none, with the smell of stew wafting through the auditorium from the stove in the corner. As the story unfolds, violinist Farhaan Shah provides suspenseful scores from the balcony as Amadeus.
Following a cruel prank on Dr Coppelius – played by by New Vic favourite Michael Hugo – in which he finds the doll broken, the audience are led back outside to their original seats for the final part of the story mischievous mystery. Mike’s performance as Dr Coppelius was incredibly convincing, he made a great grumpy widower, and his reason for building Coppelia was so heartwarming.
Coppelia sees four talented actors and an intimate team of creatives show what can be done with some innovation and determination. A breath-taking set and an unforgettable immersive experience, Coppelia takes you on a magical journey where each member of the audience is truly a part of the story. It’s fun for all the family, building suspense from the start with the rumours that Dr Coppelius kidnaps children and steals their eyes – but the story comes to an exciting end, with a beautifully choreographed dance piece.
New Vic Artistic Director Theresa Heskins said: “We made Coppelia – A Mystery with love and determination last Christmas. When we realised we wouldn’t be able to invite audiences then, we planned how we’d reimagine it for a summer’s day. The show plunges its audience right into the story, inviting them to walk through this magical world along the street of shops we’ve built outside the theatre, and then to sneak into the workshop at the back of Dr Coppelius’s shop to discover the toymaker’s secret.
“Nothing brings us more joy than seeing all generations of a family delighting in a show together, so creating theatre for family audiences is an important part of our theatre-making. This year it feels more important than ever to give families unique experiences to treasure: for us to inspire imaginations, offer adventures, and all rediscover the power of theatre to bring people together.”
Coppelia – A Mystery will be performed in and around the New Vic until Saturday, August 7, 2021. Tickets are on sale now, priced £15.00 (£10.00 Concs) and can be booked by calling the Box Office on 01782 717962 or online at newvictheatre.org.uk.