Review: ‘Don Quijote’ Camden People’s Theatre

Anarchically original and perspicaciously challenging, Tom Frankland and Keir Cooper’s striking production of Don Quijote at the Camden People’s Theatre is not one to be missed.

The audience is guided into a seemingly empty basement to be greeted with cardboard boxes, egg cartons and reams of masking tape, bringing to life our hero, Don Quijote. With a different guest performer each night, this production is dazzlingly fresh, offering a unique exploration into an iconic Spanish text. Combining original music with shadow play, autobiographical storytelling and giant paper-blowing fans ‘Don Quijote’ could easily be remarked on as ‘superficial fun’. Yet whilst jovial and light-hearted, a deeper philosophical message is brazenly thrown at the audience – whether “you count yourself amongst the contented or the afflicted”; do you seek change in the face of futility or live in meek acceptance?

Once the guest Don Quijote is suitably equipped with sturdy armour a courageous spectator is called upon to undertake a great quest, vanishing (presumably to somewhere out of the rain!) before making a grand entrance with his trusty steed in the last ten minutes. What happened on his mighty adventure, we can only guess. So what judgement can I make on this production? In truth, I can make none. That is the magic of ‘Don Quijote’ – each performance is as unique as the experience of each individual spectator, partially why I feel able to review a preview (it also ran at the Edinburgh Fringe before transferring).

However, despite this production concept being magnificently original, it seemed to lack subtlety and substance, proclaiming some great societal insight but without real depth. Nevertheless, I commend and congratulate the collaborators and performers for pushing boundaries with such inventiveness and although energy was abundant, it dissipated quickly without a sense of direction. Without an apparent climax I was momentarily perplexed as to whether or not the play had finished; only when the rest of the audience tentatively began a round of applause did it dawn on me that the finale had arrived. Yet it is a testament to the creators that I left the theatre uplifted, inspired and ready to change the world.

‘Don Quijote’ is a startling insight into the nature of societal change, a thorough exploration into the spirit of the hidalgo and one of the most mesmeric productions I have seen this year (ok it’s only been a week but you know what I mean). I cannot claim to tell you what you might experience, except that you will be better off when you come out than when you came in. Go see it while you can, with diversity in each performance, you never know what you might discover.

http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/event/don-quijote/

Over and out,

The Madman

Advertisements

Changing casts? A Curious Incident…

  Curious Incident 1

Distressed by sounds, rattled by colours and has a fear for metaphors. That’s Christopher Boone. A 15 year old boy with ‘behavioural problems’ trying to cope with the chaos of regular life and trawl through the hazards of Swindon Station.

‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ is as much dazzling as it is touching and has got to be one of the most ingenious productions ever to run in London’s West End. As cheesy as it sounds, this was a production that truly did ‘exceed expectations’

I must admit I was slightly worried about seeing one of my childhood heroes live on stage especially as Mark Haddon’s 2003 bestseller was lumped in the ‘unstageable’ category. So it was with great trepidation that I approached the grand entrance to the Apollo theatre (now sadly in need of some TLC) and took my seat in the upper circle speculating about whether Luke Treadaway and Marriane Elliot could replicate the success of the award-winning ‘War Horse’.

With the dimming of the house lights and dramatic boom these doubts fled instantly as Bunny Christie’s inventive design instantly portrayed the linear yet magical mind of young Christopher. Train tracks running along the floor, chalk drawings splayed out across the stage, a bombardment of visual effects translated Christopher’s inner complexities to the audience, bringing to life Haddon’s literature. Convincing technical effects ensured a visual feast but this production was not just about magical staircases and flashing lights.

There’s a reason Luke Treadaway won the Olivier Award for his performance as Christopher. His performance was astonishing in its sensitivity, carrying both comic relief and great emotional depth.

Curious Incident 2

Yet we must not forget Simon Stephens here, the playwright who scripted the play from Haddon’s novel. He achieves the impossible here, sticking true to the themes of the book evoking all the sympathy for Christopher and the extent of his father’s frustration.

Now enough of that raving! Following my initial review (abridged above), I returned to the Apollo Theatre, luckily before the cave in, to closely observe the new cast in play. Frankly, I was disappointed. Make no mistake, this is still a fantastic production by a brilliant team but having seen the original cast in action this feels like a stale remake. Indeed a colleague of mine walked out saying “that was good” – and that’s precisely what it was; good but not great. I suppose that’s to be expected with Mike Noble tasked with emulating second for second Treadaway’s performance. Technically and superficially the original is still there but feels as if the shiny gloss has been worn down leaving a somewhat lacklustre result in comparison. Tightly rehearsed and carefully choreographed it continues to wow audiences, but to put it simply, this latest version just lacks the spark that brought the production into the realm of ‘brilliance’.

Did the new cast match up to expectations? Share your thoughts below.

Over and out,

The Madman