Cape Town City Ballet: Sleeping Beauty Review

After two wonderful outings to the Fugard it was time for TheatreZA to make their way to the Artscape – that minimalist and almost brutalist city landmark both loved and loathed by Capetonians. In contrast to the cosiness of the Fugard, the Artscape stands as an imposing but impressive structure with a stately staircase that can’t help but excite any patron of this great venue.

Andile Ndlovu and Precious Adams

The theatre itself is also larger than life which made it a wonder to watch the beautiful creatures of the Cape Town City Ballet flit across the stage performing the fairytale classic, Sleeping Beauty.

While the reviewers at TheatreZA are a little jaded by the storyline that a princess needs a prince to save her, we can certainly appreciate The Cape Town City Ballet’s invigorated production. Staged by SA ballet legend, Denise Schultze Godfrey, this is a wonderful performance of characters, costumes, set designs and fun. In case the mothballs are a little moldy on your childhood memory, let’s recap the story of the Princess and her century-long sleep.

Princess Aurora is cursed at her christening by Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy – wonderfully danced by Olivia Parfitt – that should she ever prick her finger she will die. On the night of her 16th birthday disaster strikes, as she finally pricks her finger on a spindle hidden in a bouquet of flowers. But the Lilac Fairy protects her from the spell, and instead of dying she falls into a deep sleep for 100 years until the curse is lifted by the kiss of her one true love.

The ballet is set in a time where men wore white wigs and women wore dresses that look as though they could fit two small children under the skirt, but although humorous, the costumes are beautifully intricate and enchanting. The set design is a feast for the eyes, and takes us through a palace, a forest, and a royal hall, making each curtain lift a pleasant surprise. A shout out to Peter Cazalet for Set and Costume Design and Wilhelm Disbergen for Lighting Design to make this all happen so magically.

Divided into three acts, the ballet introduces us to a handful of characters, some of whom even come from other well-known fairytales. We meet five fairies, who bring an exuberant and youthful energy to the stage, and an evil fairy accompanied by four rats who roll around on the floor and cart her around in an emerald green carriage. Red Riding Hood (Amy Dean) and the Wolf (Khlolekhile Byongo) give us a short but sweet ‘pas de deux’, and we are also treated to a lighthearted and thoroughly enjoyable duet by a cheeky White Cat (Mikayla Isaacs) and Puss in Boots (Bradley van Heerden). But of course, the main accolades go to the stars…

Prince Florimund – played by Andile Ndlovu from the Washington Ballet – shines with his remarkable ability to grand jeté around the stage as if he were a real life 90’s Sky Dancer toy, as well as softly and effortlessly move through the forest scene.

Leane Theunissen, who plays the Lilac Fairy, feels like a mom during your spout of winter flu. Not only does she scoop up all the bad and make it disappear in plain sight, but she also dances like she was born balancing on one leg. Her control in each movement is unparalleled, making it virtually impossible for the audience to look anywhere else but at her.

Olivia Parfitt

And then lastly, with gracefulness, immaculate poise, and perfect line, Mariette Opperman keeps the audience captivated in her role of Princess Aurora. She exudes an ease and a softness on stage, making it feel as though any of us could get up there and do the moves like her – a rare ability indeed.

On second thoughts, however, let us leave the dancing to the professionals, and instead be content to watch these fabulous dancers fly from the safety of the audience. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch a ballet where they can see men in heels, woman in giant dresses, some rats, a cat, fairies, and some magic – what more could you want on a winters evening anyway?

Sleeping Beauty is performed by the Cape Town City Ballet at the Artscape Theatre Centre from August 17-31. Tickets are available from the Artscape website.

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