Sunday 19 February 2012

Rocinante! Rocinante! - Review

CLF Theatre, London


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

16 February 2012

Devised by: The Panta Rei Theatre Collective

Director:  Chiara D'Anna

Rocinante! Rocinante! is a participative piece of physical theatre. The production takes the character of Don Quixote, played here by Juancho Gonzalez, as its baseline and weaves a dream-like interaction between Cervantes’ troubled hero and the gravediggers from Hamlet. The cast of seven take us on a journey, performed entirely mise-en-scene that is always thought provoking and at times quite unsettling. Whilst the production is often beautiful, it is not easy to watch, nor is it intended to be. The bleak white-washed space of the CLF theatre in Peckham lends a harsh and unforgivingly clinical air to the performance: wear comfortable clothes and wrap up warm!

Quixote’s pursuit of Dulcinea provides a central thread to the performance, and Stephanie Lewis embodies the subject of the Don’s desire with a ghostly ethereal beauty that at times blurs into hints of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. In a surprisingly effective doubling up of roles, Lewis also plays Quixote’s trusty steed Rocinante, her slender frame evoking a nag well past her prime. The other equine role, that of Sancho Panza’s donkey is performed by Tommy Scott, and with effective use of Lewis’ flowing locks, and cleverly deployed wooden spoons as the donkey’s ears, the two quadrupeds are touchingly evoked on a fraction of the War Horse budget!

Two of the production’s scenes really do stand out . Quixote’s nightmare is a portrayal of a man struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and it is difficult, almost unbearable, to watch. There is no windmill on stage to be tilted at, but neither is there a requirement for one. Gonzalez moves the audience with a depiction of a man who is as terrified as he is unhinged. And elsewhere, in a haunting dream like vision, the suggestion of the tragic drowning of Ophelia is beautifully portrayed.
Other notables in the production are Daniel Rejano who embodies Sancho Panza, with a nod to Fawlty Towers’ Manuel, both characters of course being the “straight guy” to their deluded masters and Chiara D’Anna , who also directs, impressing as a manic gravedigger, Gary.

The play’s stated mission to link these two leading works of English and Spanish literature is a bold conceit and I am not convinced that the argument for such an interaction is effectively made within the show’s one-act 70 minute duration. Nonetheless, the company’s venture into using classical literature to tackle perceptions and tolerance of mental health, is an innovative and refreshing use of theatre.

Runs until March 2

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