‘Don Quixote’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 3, 2017

‘Don Quixote’ is a bawdy, comedy romp based on Saavedra’s 1605 novel, ‘Cervantes’. It was originally translated from Arabic by a Moorish writer; however, this production is the 2013 adaptation is by playwright Larry Buttrose PhD., a South Australian journalist, ABC broadcaster, and academic. Originally considered a social commentary, this version is almost a slap-stick comedy.

Buttrose was the ghost-writer on the recent major selling book, ‘A Long Way Home’ on which the recent film ‘Lion’ was based.

The Performing Arts Association of Notre Dame Australia, are proudly presenting Edward Blake’s production in Notre Dame’s Prindiville Hall, at 25 Mouat Street, Fremantle.

The two-and-a-half hour shows can be seen on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at 6.30 pm, and Saturday nights at 7.00 pm, until November 11th.

 

Thomas Desmond’s set comprised various pieces of rustic furniture and a brazier. There was a very good handcart (Props and production supervisor, Justine Ralph). The walls were black drapes.

The stage manager was Zoe Jess, assisted by Jessica Denning. The set changes were swift and effective considering the limited space in the wings.

The lighting and sound were designed and operated by Chelsea Reilly and Zoe Jess. The selection of Spanish music was stirring.

 

The scene is a small Spanish town, 400 years ago.

        A Spanish landowner, Don Quixote (Morgan Unger), is going through a midlife crisis; he is madly in love with Dulcinea (Ella Gorringe) but needs to prove himself. He hears of the term ‘Knight Errant’, a medieval knight who wanders in search of chivalrous adventures. This is his big chance, and so, with his trusty squire, Sancho Panza (Courtney McManus) he sets forth.

       In Quixote’s home, his housekeeper (Takia Morrison) sits crocheting as she relates the adventures that follow. The local priest, Father Perez (Zakaria Hourani) is collecting all the blasphemous and immoral books and burning them. Master Nicholas (Jake Treacher) and his sexy, fawning girlfriend Juliana (Kirralee Coulter) are broken-hearted at the loss of their ‘training manuals’.

      On his journey to save the world, the bold idealist, Quixote fearlessly tackles all situations that he misinterprets as unjust. He rescued two, pure young ladies, Regina (Ana Ferreira Manhoso) and Marina (Holly Handley) from being pawed and assaulted by two men – even though Sancho was desperately trying to tell Don that they were prostitutes and the men had paid.

       On seeing a country inn, and being prone to ‘visions’, Don thought it was a castle and asked the landlord (Alannah Pennefather) to dub him a knight, Sir Alonso. When he finds three prisoners tied together, a thief (Troy Coelho), a pimp (Rachel Porter) and a Basque (Michael Allan), who have been arrested by a Captain (Giacomo Groppoli) he sets them free – before being robbed by them, himself.

      Can there be any hope for this useless Knight? How much longer will poor Sancho have to suffer?

 

The expression, ‘tilting at windmills’ describes the act of attacking imaginary enemies and comes from Quixote’s numerous exploits.

The wide range of excellent costumes was by Carmel Mohen. The variety included prostitutes to Archbishops, peasants to the rich, all finely attired.

Director, Chelsea Reilly had a very wide stage to cope with, but she kept the action flowing well and used the whole area extensively. The cast were well rehearsed, and grasped their characters impeccably. Don and Sancho were outstanding. Quixote never faltered on his idiotic enthusiasm and Sancho was brilliant as his squire, desperately trying to drum some sense into him.

I went to this show expecting a heavy play, and was pleasantly surprised to see the Chaucer-like rendition of the well-known story. Sadly the audience was rather small, possibly due to the 6.30 start, but undeterred, the cast gave a great performance, filled with drive and enthusiasm.

The script has some very funny side comments and this adaptation defined the leads perfectly.

Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.