The Doctor, the Doll and the canny fiancée

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Left: Maria Ledesma; Kesi Rose Olley-Dorey; Steffi Thomas; Duncan Anderson and James Loffler Photo: Ewa Figaszewska
Left: Maria Ledesma, Kesi Rose Olley-Dorey, Steffi Thomas, Duncan Anderson and James Loffler. Friday Dec 11 at Lime Tree Theatre
Photo: Ewa Figaszewska

LIMERICK is privy to Ballet Ireland’s 20th century staging of ‘Coppélia’, the story of the doll who comes to life dancing. This is a ballet that has enchanted since the 1800s. Yet it’s the nature of Ballet Ireland and choreographer Morgann Runacre-Temple to be inventive, subversive, but honour the creator’s vision – on their terms.

Stella Feehily has worked on the narrative and libretto.

Hark back to the visually arresting ‘Carmen’ at Milk Market, July 2014 with the Irish Chamber Orchestra arrayed by Carmen’s scaffold of fate. Morgann was approached by Anne Maher of the dance company about looking at ‘Coppélia’ next, with new eyes and context.

“As I did, I realised that I could really remake it to our culture today,” Morgann tells Arts page.

What ensued was a consideration of women, popular ideals and insidious pressure on the fairer sex to be alluring as well as home-makers and careerists, all since the influence of Hollywood, television, advertising and affluence. After all, “‘Coppélia’ is about the creation of something physically perfect”.

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This year’s production with a dozen dancers is coming to Lime Tree Theatre this Friday December 11, 8pm. It is set in 1959, on the cusp of the futuristic sixties. Part 1 belongs to a country fair at which Hildy (Kesi Rose Olley-Dorey) and her fiancé Franz (James Loffler) become intrigued by scientist Dr Coppelius (Anthony Maloney) and the stunning Coppélia. Franz is smitten.

Hildy and friends scent more than folly and follow the dark doctor home to his experimental laboratory. It emerges that Coppelius invents products for sale such as a soap beauty bar; the Doll has been created as model.

The choreographer gave composer Tom Lane the Muzurka from Delibes’ score to rework from 3,4 time to 4,4, successfully. The set changes next to a barn and bluegrass band.

“That [Mazurka] started our journey. Delibes’ music is re-recorded and re-orchestrated by bluegrass and we added an Eddie Fisher number. The story is told by Hildy, the protaganist who is funny and clever and manages to outwit the doctor and her fiancé”. 

Falling for a dancer? Franz’ true love has her own moves.

Morgann Runnacre-Temple’s big surprise in how ‘Coppélia’ is being received is that children are up for it. Delighted at their belief, she says “they are totally engaged, even though the second half is spooky”.

The fairytale of Coppélia is made pertinent and challenging, Friday 11 at 8pm only for Limerick.