A knight, a horse and a squire…

 

When I first saw Don Quixote (Garrick Theatre) way back in my teens I was struck by two things, his eccentricity and his horse. I was young and impressionable and having just seen the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, first seen in Stratford two years ago, my first impression remains intact. In Miguel de Cervantes original early seventeenth century novel, on which this inventive adaptation by James Fenton is based, the novelist gives us an insight into the man’s character, the book title being The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. Ingenious maybe but also hopelessly romantic and a serial fantasist. Fed up with how civility and chivalry are becoming behaviours of the past, in his world, he embarks on an adventurous journey which blurs the lines between the reality and imagination. Fortunately, he is aided and abetted by Sancho Panza, a squire who is either sycophantic, bonkers or both.

It is a wonderful tale and Angus Jackson’s gloriously insane production, ripe for an advent audience before the invasion of the panto, adopts a ‘Pythonesque’ approach, which draws hysterical laughter while making you ponder your position on the clash between the power of societal thinking and individualism. A world where sheep become soldiers about to wage war, windmills are giants and deep in the forest lurk wizards waiting to unleash their magic. All this after having declared himself a knight errant, and all apparently without the help of any mind-altering substances. Perhaps Cervantes knows better…

David Threlfall’s Quixote makes an opening entrance befitting of a queer fella. Entering from the auditorium a somewhat bedraggled looking man with long white hair and a beard heads for the stage with purpose. Richard III exclaimed “My kingdom for a horse” and David Threlfall’s magnificently aberrant Quixote seeks similar equine redemption. He does just that and with trusty Panza (Rufus Hound) at his side, they set off. Hound is given free rein to use the audience as his jousting partner. He does so superbly, quipping quirkily and quixotically. While he has fun Threlfall spirals downwards into cloud cuckoo land. The rest of the cast, clad in suitably crazy and colourful outfits, lend splendid support and they too have an opportunity to add to the pandemonium, especially during a fight scene where we also get involved with buns landing on several of our bald pates and perms.

Grant Olding’s songs are a surprising treat, very atmospheric, and Toby Olie’s puppetry poetry in motion. Although almost three hours long it whizzes past in no time. Viva La Mancha.

Meanwhile Jonoulla Havana will not forget…

The weather on Saturday evening was horrendous. Driving rain, strong winds, a night to stay in and batten down the hatches. Those men trapped in the life-draining trenches of World War I had no such choice. The weekend saw countless events happening around the globe to commemorate the truly horrific events of the two World Wars and I was very fortunate to be part of a concert also playing its part. Remembrance (St John’s Smith Square), performed by the choir and orchestra of the London Choral Sinfonia was quite literally music to die for, in the most solemn sense.

The beautiful church was lit by candlelight creating an atmosphere for mindful reflection. Parry’s Songs of Farewell had me welling up such was its beauty with waves of heart-rending passages. However, it was Mozart’s Requiem that pierced right through to my core. Shame on me, this was the first time hearing it in full. It is a truly magnificent composition and the intensity is overwhelming, engendering a welter of emotions. The singers and musicians, conducted with precision by Michael Waldron, were superb throughout and even those who question the purpose of commemoration and remembrance would have been moved. After this I will never forget.

Finally, Juanita Bhangra has a lovely trip back in time…

I cry every time I hear Bridge Over Troubled Water. It resonates with so much that has happened in my life, good and bad. Music has that power and you will have your own pieces that do similar things. Seeing The Simon and Garfunkel Story (Vaudeville Theatre) this week brought it all back. I never saw them live but Charles Blyth (Art Garfunkel) and Philip Murray Watson (Paul Simon) do a seriously good job in recreating their beautiful harmonies, taking us on a journey that includes all the hits from that incredible discography. Hit after hit, memorable song after memorable song, it really is astonishing the quality of both the music and the lyrics. Along the way we get snippets of the difficulties in their relationship – a bit of a tease to be honest – and the show ends without any resolution about this or why they quit at the top. By then I cared little as I was so lost in that magical sound that will remain forever etched in my mind as a fantastic musical backdrop to my adolescence. They of course saved the best ‘til last…and yes I cried.

 

Don Quixote – 0330 333 4811

St John’s Smith Square – www.sjss.org.uk

The Simon and Garfunkel Story – 0330 333 4814

Barney Efthimiou

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