On a chilly, damp night in Henley, Ballet Theatre UK’s The Sleeping Beauty at the Kenton Theatre on 4th April provided a warming entertainment for those with both casual and specialist interest in the art form. The company of twelve managed successfully to overcome the challenges of the small stage without compromising the quality of the dancing. The choreography was suitably adapted and the required contrast sang out loud and clear between the gentle, almost pastoral sequences performed by Sleeping Beauty and the good fairies on the one hand, and the darkly wicked Carabosse and her attendant goblins on the other.
Whilst the set was a little basic and Tchaikovsky's music as expected taped, the elaborate costumes, particularly the sensational wigs worn by the courtiers, together with the glittering, bejewelled tutus of the principals more than compensated to make this a truly eye-catching show. Natalie Cawte as the Princess gave a robust and enthusiastic performance, with just a little hesitancy in releasing the suitors’ hands during the arabesque on pointe – a notoriously difficult move. Carabosse was stunning both technically and in the visualisation of her character. The Prince gave a competent performance but, oddly, seemed in his demeanour ill at ease in both the corps and as a principal. All of the other soloists – the good fairies, particularly the fairy godmother and Little Red Riding Hood (plus Wolf, of course!) - quite why they are always dragged in in the ballet version of Sleeping Beauty escapes me - provided enchanting accompaniments. The contribution of the corps was strong.
I see with despair that the omission that plagues Oxford shows, that’s to say no cast list available to the audience, has spread its tentacles to Henley. Quite why venues can’t provide such a rudimentary aide memoire is utterly beyond me.
The Kenton Theatre is a delight to visit. It’s centrally located on New Street and there's easy parking. I found the staff super-helpful, the auditorium is comfy and oozes olde worlde charm, and there’s a licensed bar. Next shows are a children’s drama The Way Back Home (Wed 11th April), a dance theatre show Curtain Up! (Fri 13th and Sat 14th April) and then the Victorian musical Jack the Ripper (Wed 18th - Sat 21st April).