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Review: Don Quixote, at Garrick Theatre

James Fenton’s rollickingly funny adaptation, starring David Threlfall and Rufus Hound, makes it feel as though panto season has already started

16 November, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Rufus Hound and David Threlfall in Don Quixote. Photo: Manuel Harlan

DAVID Threlfall as Don Quixote de la Mancha looks just as you always imagined the self-styled Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance in this RSC production, first seen in Stratford two years ago.

The elderly fantasist who sets out to revive ancient chivalry may be the butt of other folks’ laughter as he mistakes windmills for giants, sheep for an army and a village girl for a beautiful noblewoman, but you can’t help but be touched by the romantic aspirations of his dementia.

Rufus Hound (heavily padded) is his sidekick Sancho Panza. The farmer-turned-squire may flee from an angry missus (Natasha Magigi) but the audience love his immediate rapport. “We are going to be here for hours,” he tells them, but it passes very quickly.

James Fenton’s adaptation, reducing Cervantes’ sprawling classic to under three hours, is episodic but rollickingly funny with lively songs (co-written with Grant Olding) and delightful puppetry.

The Don’s starving steed Rocinante and Pancho’s diminutive donkey are pretend skeletal wooden horses with the head of the human who pulls them providing their character, big ears poking out of straw hats, smirking as well as hee-hawing and neighing. There’s a great flock of sheep which get slaughtered and a magnificent but gentle lion.

Director Angus Jackson and comedy director Cal McCrystal make it fast-moving and funny. The first half is very high spirited, the second more reflective as the local duke and his duchess make fun of Quixote and his friends take him home to end life among them.

There is lively playing from an ensemble cast with Timothy Speyer’s Barber, Nicholas Lumley’s Priest and Richard Leming’s Boy gaining particular notice, and it’s full of great moments with even a horse chewing on a carrot becomes hilarious.

If you want a night out this Don Quixote makes it feel as though the panto season has already started (there is even a bun fight with the audience), though it’s not for the tiny tots and rather less raucous than most of them.

UNTIL FEBRUARY 2 2019
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