Wednesday, 14 November 2018

 

Don Quixote at the Garrick Theatre


Who hasn't seen the classic novel with a knight pictured on the front in the middle of a duel, his lance strangely pointing in the direction of a windmill as if the inanimate object were his opponent in battle? Don Quixote de la Mancha, the novel's titular character is an infamous protagonist in the literary world, and on his legendary adventures he has now journeyed to the stage; the Garrick Theatre in London's West End to be exact.

After reading one too many knight's tales, the noble Alonso Quixano (David Threlfall) starts believing he is a knights-errant himself awaiting his time at home before his next grand adventure. Before too long he recruits a farmer by the name of Sancho Panza (Rufus Hound) as his squire, with the promise that the farmer will get his own island to govern by the end of their quest.

Rather than trying to defeat true villains, however, they come up against flocks of sheep and windmills. Yet, despite Don Quixote's quite obvious delusions, Sancho stays loyal by his side – fighting the battles alongside his master, and eventually his truest friend.
 
The Royal Shakespeare Company has adapted Miquel de Cerventes' novel from the 1600s into a rollicking theatrical experience. What is already a very comedic tale has been amplified by Sancho's role within the play as that of the narrator frequently breaking the fourth wall and creating moments of absolute hilarity through improvisation and making the audience a part of the story – occasionally in a very physical way.

Rufus Hound is fantastic in the role of the naive farmer and Don Quixote's sidekick, as much as he is in that of the narrator. Despite his frequent tongue-in-cheek interactions with the audience, he's firmly grounded within the play when the story calls for it, and his quick changes between being a core part of the tale unfolding on stage and the moments he provides a wink and a laugh to those watching are a joy to behold.

While Don Quixote was originally regarded as a comedy of a foolish man fighting windmills, fast-forward a few centuries and we're much more perceptive to the deep-rooted mental issues that can cause these delusions. And so while moments of hilarity remain within the play, amplified in this version moreso by Sancho's actions than Don Quixote's, it's also a very tragic story of a man losing his mind and being made fun of by those he encounters on his travels.

And David Threlfall has captured both sides of Don Quixote beautifully in his mesmerising performance; sometimes he is the brave knights-errant who we are all rooting for to come out victorious, and at others he's a fragile old man with delusions of grandeur for whom our heart breaks.

The subtle changes in his performance allow us to see these two very different sides of the delusional Spanish knight. And this turns what could've been a straight-up comedy making fun of an old man's deteriorating mental health, which wouldn't sit right with modern audiences, into a multi-faceted tale of chivalry, epic quests and, most of all, a poignant friendship between a noble and a simple farmer. 



Don Quixote is playing at the Garrick Theatre until 2 February 2018. Get your tickets here.


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