Don Quixote at the Garrick Theatre: A comedic masterpiece
Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote is by no means a stranger to the theatre. On the contrary, this classic of world literature has inspired so many adaptations – not only in the form of plays, but also musical drama and films – that it’s hard to keep track. Nevertheless, James Fenton’s recent version, initially produced in 2016, is such a refreshingly new and yet delightfully loyal rendering of the literary giant that it is an immediate huge hit. The work feels modern – perfectly suitable for a contemporary audience – and yet maintains succinctly the tone and weight of the original, turning this into a comedic masterpiece.
What really lets this adaptation ascend to great heights, however, is not just Fenton’s brilliant writing based on Cervantes’s genius work, but also a near-perfect production orchestrated by a highly competent Angus Jackson and a practically flawless cast. Especially, the lead actors – David Threlfall as the rugged and down-trodden Don Quixote and Rufus Hound as the simple-minded and greedy Sancho Panza – completely dominate their roles, making it difficult to imagine anyone else playing those characters. With absolute spot-on comedic timing, they never let the well run dry.
The supporting cast is similarly hilarious and versatile, keeping up seamlessly with the quick-paced action and occasional musical intervals allowing them to demonstrate good vocal skills. Every second of this play works, everything is woven neatly together, turning it into a furiously funny and extremely exhilarating experience. Don Quixote is not an easy book to adapt for the stage – given its length and episodic nature – but this production nails it. This really is comedy at its finest.
Even the more difficult aspects of the novel work in Fenton’s play. Frequent witty and charming interactions with the audience and jokes that break the forth wall reek of the self-awareness present in the original, and the ultimately tragic nature of the title character’s plight can be felt throughout – without ever breaking the humour or being too obvious. The end-result is a strange combination of feeling desperately bad for Quixote and Sancho and yet never being able to stop laughing.
There’s very little criticism that could be expressed against this adaptation. It does perfectly what any good stage rendition should do: it reminds us of the brilliance of the original, and no doubt will inspire a generation of new readers, allowing Cervantes’s vision to live on in our hearts.
Photo: Hanuel Harlan
Don Quixote is at the Garrick Theatre from 27th October 2018 until 2nd February 2019. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for the Don Quixote here: