Don Q

The adventures of Don Q enter the 21st Century in this modern adaptation by Joanna Volinsky. In his original incarnation Don Quixole was enraptured with stories of romantic chivalry so much so that he began to lose the ability to discern reality from fiction. Dressed as a knight he sought adventure and to redress all the innumerable injustices in the world. He persuaded the unfortunate peasant Sancho to accompany him on his travels and together the two brought chaos wherever they went. Windmills were terrible giants on the landscape that Quixole must destroy, shoddy inns were enchanted castles, and country wrenches were exiled princesses.

In his modern incarnation, Don Q does not have his head turned soft by ‘romantic chivalry’ but from watching too many Hollywood blockbuster videos about heroes and villains. Sancho, appears to be some homeless person who Don Q persuades to follow him on his adventure by promising him fame and glory. No longer does Don Q have a horse but now his means of transport is an old unreliable car, and his weapons are now plastic toy golf clubs.

The story begins with Dorothea, who runs an unsuccessful teashop and is in danger of losing her clientele to a conglomerate who is redeveloping the area. Her week-old cakes and cold insipid tea are no competition for the classy coffee shops that are being opened. There is even the threat of violence from “Panda Man”, who is attempting to intimidate local businesses into closing down and selling their property to the conglomerate.

Don Q falls in love with the uncouth Dorothea, for him she is a damsel in distress regardless of the fact that she seems more than able to beat Panda Man into a pulp. He must be true to his heart and defeat the evil Panda Man and put right all injustices. This way he hopes to win the heart of his lovely Dorothea and so his adventure begins as he seeks to hunt down the mysterious “Panda Man”.

In a world short of heroes Don Q seems an even more tragic comical figure in this incarnation then he did in his previous. At least we could understand the drive to be a chivalrous knight rescuing damsels, but in today’s world Don Q seems totally alien in his aspirations, not only is he a lousy hero but he also appears to be totally deranged. As one of the characters says, “We don’t need another hero.” And anyway, in today’s world we are too cynical to believe in them anymore.

All the cast perform well, but it is Dave Roberts as Don Q who stands out. He brings a wild intensity to the role and utterly believes in his characters nobility. It is his ability to act ‘heroically’ whilst, for example, smashing the monstrous CCTV cameras with his plastic toy golf clubs that stops the show from becoming incongruous.

This play is probably meant to be a simple re-telling of the humorous story of Don Quixole. However, I noticed from the program notes that the author was a child growing up in Gdansk, Poland at the time when Lech Walesa, as the head of Solidarity, was confronting the might of Communism. I cannot help but wonder if this story is an indictment upon Western Europe, in that we are now a culture full of triviality in which acts of chivalry and sacrifice are no longer understood!?

An excellent fringe production and if you are still young at heart and have an active imagination it is one you are sure to enjoy!

Alan Bird

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