Thursday, January 31, 2019

'Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes, adapted by James Fenton

31 January 2019

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a contemporary of Shakespeare: they died within a few days of each other in 1616. So it was fascinating to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘Don Quixote’, adapted by James Fenton, at the Garrick Theatre in London last Saturday. When I read ‘The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha’ (reviewed here in January 2012) I realised what a debt more recent comic creations, particularly double-acts, owe to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. In this stage adaptation David Threlfall and the comedian Rufus Hound create a believably warm relationship between these two deluded simpletons. The show is great fun though, as with the novel, laughs at the expense of what is effectively mental illness feel a bit uncomfortable at times. The most ground-breaking aspect of Cervantes’ book, however, is the meta-fiction of Volume 2 where the characters start to encounter people who have read Volume 1. The stage version tried to incorporate this narrative complexity, with actors carrying copies of the book and Rufus Hound breaking the fourth wall to banter with the audience. But I felt it missed the impact the book has when you start to wonder who is writing the story – which really messes with your head! Nevertheless Angus Jackson’s production is incredibly enjoyable and made me fall in love with Cervantes’ characters all over again.

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