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REVIEW: Tess of the D'Urbervilles at the Kenton Theatre

Sally Gray

REVIEW:  Tess of the D'Urbervilles at the Kenton Theatre

Situated in the centre of Henley-on-Thames, the Kenton Theatre is the fourth-oldest working theatre in the UK and a registered charity. Seating 240, the theatre today offers a varied programme of comedy, drama, music, talks and more – as well as being available for hire.

I love Henley and quite often walk the dog (followed by breakfast) on a Sunday morning near the Kenton Theatre . Well, I noticed that Tess of the D’Urbervilles was being shown and I remembered enjoying Far from the Madding Crowd when I was at school, so I thought - perfect opportunity to go.

The scene was set when we approached the theatre and a well dressed gentleman (dinner jacket and bow tie) was standing at the entrance and opened the door for us – how lovely.

The theatre was obviously very old; my daughter loved the ‘dusty’ smell and deep red much-painted walls.

The production created by Shropshire based, Hotbuckle Productions was, we all agreed, brilliant. My youngest daughter adores literature and drama so I knew she’d love it but my eldest is easily bored and even she gave it nine-and-a-half out of ten.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles, one of Hardy’s fictional masterpieces, apparently received mixed reviews when it first appeared, in part because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England. Tess is a desperate story of hypocrisy and double standards. In a nut shell the poor girl is raped, abandoned by her husband because of it, and then hanged.

There were only four, extremely talented, cast members (Alan Preater, Beth Organ, Joanna Purslow and Sam Elwin) who changed on set and did their own sound effects and lighting in front of us - they managed quite brilliantly to create atmosphere, suspense, comedy and clear, believable characters.

I will definitely look out for Hotbuckle Productions in the future and was very grateful to their Tess of the D’Urbervilles for encouraging me to visit the Kenton Theatre. A really excellent evening.

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