Stratford Upon Avon
Don Quixote: from the novel by Miguel de Cervantes, Version by James Fenton, with songs by James Fenton and Grant Olding
RSC: The Swan
Runs: 3h, one interval, Stratford Upon Avon
Tkts: 0844 800 1110
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 05 March 2016-03-07
It couldn’t be more perfect
Who has the richer life – Don Quixote or the people around him? Clearly it is the Don; it’s just that this life is not sustainable. The real world is one in which (in Sancho Panza’s words) ‘nothing much happens’; it a world, too, in which there is a casual, wicked cruelty.
This unresolvable dilemma is perfectly, beautifully encapsulated in David Threlfall’s faultless, mesmerising performance. Time after time, whether the Don is tilting at windmill-giants, saving a damsel, or lecturing the long-suffering Sancho, we truly do not know whether to laugh or cry. In truth, we do both.
But this is not a one-man show. The Don is nothing without his steward, Sancho Panza. Rufus Hound’s performance , too, is quite beautiful. It is utterly without decoration, presenting to us a character of total innocence with great honesty.
As a double act, these two actors offer us a master-class in comedy acting. They know the secret – to be funny you must not attempt to be funny. They live in the moment, second by second, with complete truth. It is wonderful to behold.
This story is told with strong ensemble playing of the highest quality. Each character is broadly enough drawn to strike the right comedic tone, but not so broadly that the actors cannot keep the characters’ feel firmly on the ground.
Director, Angus Jackson, orchestrates a delightful play, creating a satisfying whole from this episodic tale. Robert Innes Hopkins’s designs are witty with an appropriate home-spun feel. And all these elements are built upon James Fenton’s drama framework that welds together farce, pathos and poetry.
Sancho has the final line, expressing all the regret we feel at the loss of a better age (real or unreal, no matter). Taking the the dying Don by the arm he raises him from his bed and merges the three worlds – the world of chivalry, the play world, and our world – into one – he tells the Don ‘Stand forth, and take your bow.’ A perfect finish.
(Credits to follow.)