Sunday, 4 June 2017

Chapter 190: Feathers of Daedalus' Coppélia

"The body is an endless sentence, inviting us to rearrange it so that its real meaning becomes a series of endless anagrams."

Feathers of Daedalus is a new circus company founded by Joanna Vymeris. A member of the National Centre for Circus Arts' (NCCA) London Youth Circus, performing in shows directed by Ockham's Razor and Jasmin Vardimon, in her final year at Cambridge, Joanna put on the university's first contemporary circus production, Alice, an immersive retelling of the Lewis Carroll tale, at the ADC theatre and then took it to the Edinburgh Fringe to great acclaim. On the back of this success she developed her current project Coppélia, which strips and rebuilds the ballet, setting circus alongside film, cleverly woven into the frame, and live poetry, written and read by Sophie Leseberg-Smith. Coppélia was awarded artist residency in Studio Kura in Japan last year, and Lab:time support from the Arts Council and the NCCA. 

I came across Feathers of Daedalus on Instagram recently, which is where I learned that there would be a couple of Research and Development sharings over two evenings at Jacksons Lane. I couldn't make either date, but Joanna very kindly invited me along to the dress rehearsal, which slotted neatly in between interviewing Casus Circus at Underbelly and returning to watch Driftwood in the evening. Obviously meant to be! I heard via Casus Circus that afternoon that a friend of theirs, Pascal Häring,  was in the sharing, but other than that had no idea what to expect. 

It came as a wonderful surprise therefore to arrive at Jacksons Lane and find that along with Pascal doing some beautiful turns on Cyr wheel and an oneiric juggling sequence, there was Nathalie Alison (the sinuous Kaa in Metta Theatre's Jungle Book - click here for post) as graceful dancing on the ground as airborne on hoop, Laura Moy (see post on Crashmat Collective - click here) flying on Chinese Pole and Michelle Ross, a soaring trapeze artist and acrobat I also follow on Instagram. I was sorry that I couldn't see their acts in full, as they had to conserve energy for the evening performance, but what I did see of them in action was beautiful. 

Something else I was unprepared for, given the piece was set up for an R&D sharing, was that the design and costumes would be so well developed. The set had a steam punk feel and, while this was not an immersive spectacle, there was an air of Punchdrunk laced with gothic romantic tragedy that drew me in. Rather than a linear narrative, Coppélia was split into four parts, revolving around each of the four characters in turn - Dr Coppélia, Coppélia, Franz, and Swanilda. Viewed as a whole it explored the mechanisms of desire, possession and unrequited love. 

The period of research and development now over, the production will be going to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer from 3-28 August ( - click here), with the addition of six dancers and a different cast of circus performers: JoshandTess (Joshua Blackman and Tessa Frazer - hand to hand), Pete Shirley (Cyr wheel), all NCCA graduates, and dancer and acrobat Gabbie Cook. 

For more information follow Feathers of Daedalus on Facebook and Instagram. Check out @NoelShelley1 production photographs on Instagram & Twitter.

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