Garrick Theatre, London – until 2 February 2019
Angus Jackson’s production is touching, warm-hearted and funny from beginning to end.
Based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote is a riotous story filled with plenty of adventure and laughs, delightfully brought to life in Angus Jackson’s lively production.
Driven mad by reading so many chivalric romances, Don Quixote decides to become a knight-errant going by the name of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Along with his squire Sancho Panzo, the pair sets off on a quest to restore chivalry into Spain – getting into a wide variety of scrapes along the way.
Adapted by James Fenton, the story is filled with plenty of fun and laughter along the way – with the little asides from the cast and the audience interaction proving to be particular strengths in ensuring the comedy comes through properly. But Fenton’s adaptation also highlights the sadness and poignancy that can be found in the story as well, captured in the final moments of the play that are surprisingly moving in contrast to the humour during the rest of the show.
Jackson’s production is lively and enjoyable to watch throughout, fully embracing the madness and hilarity in the situations that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza find themselves in, whether it is mistaking sheep for armies or tilting at the windmills. But there is also a sharp edginess to the humour on occasion too – particularly towards the end of the first act when Don Quixote strips off and dances around in a way that brings to mind King Lear’s madness or when the Duke and Duchess laugh at him viciously when they convince him to ride a flying horse. It is moments like this that add poignancy and sadness to the production that makes it feel sincere rather than just a completely ludicrous show.
The cast are also a pleasure to watch throughout. David Threlfall is particularly convincing as Don Quixote – portraying him as someone who genuinely believes in his quest as opposed to someone who is mad. It is a performance that is well grounded and sincere, well matched with Rufus Hound as Sancho Panza whose steadfast loyalty to Don Quixote is touching to watch. Hound’s performance is natural and enjoyable – allowing his strength as a comic to really shine through and keeps the audience on their toes. The supporting cast all have a great sense of comic timing to keep the pace of the show lively throughout.
Admittedly, it is not a show that will be to everybody’s taste, with some of the humour coming across as slightly childish in places and the number of songs feeling a bit of a distraction from the story. But Don Quixote has a quirky charm and style about it that makes it enjoyable to watch from beginning to end. So if you are in need of a laugh then pop along to the Garrick Theatre to catch this lively and entertaining production.