The Other Don Qui

DonQui Oaty is quite excited. He is in Stratford — the ‘upon-Avon’ variety, not the east end of London, nor Ontario for that matter — and he is going to see a play with carries a misspelt version of his name as its title.IMG_6864.jpg

He is reliably informed that the original (a book not a play) was written by a Spanish chap who died 400 years ago in 1616. Apparently another person, quite famous in Stratford-upon-Avon, died that same year. The story is all about a donkey called Dapple who goes off on all sorts of adventures accompanied by two fairly hopeless humans called Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.IMG_6857.jpg

Duchess treats DonQui to a delicious pre-performance dinner at the theatre’s Rooftop Restaurant which, at £19.95 for two courses or £24.95 for three, is excellent value. The staff keep an eye on the show times and hold desert for us to enjoy in the interval washed down by a snifter of calvados. IMG_6862.jpg

DonQui has a great seat right against the stage which juts out into the audience.

DonQ 1.jpg

He thinks the play is great fun: imaginative, witty and moving, with great acting, well timed comedy and some ingenious puppetry. Sancho Panza (Rufus Hound) is a great crowd pleasing showman. Don Quixote (David Threlfall) a Gandalf look-alike, anti-hero, switches from being completely bonkers to holding himself with quiet noble dignity in face of adversity. The Duchess (Ruth Everett) chillingly floats around the stage like a Dalek, her false smile hiding her cruel intentions. Even the horses have hilarious character, the actors taking turns to give them different emotions ranging from downtrodden to cowardly to camp.

The only criticism DonQui has is that the Donkey hero Dapple (who saves Sancho Panza near the end) should have had more lines.

Don Quixote is on at the Swan Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon until 21 May.

Nell Gwynn

DonQui is most pleased to have snaffled a couple of tickets to see the play Nell Gwynn which has just opened in the West End. So he and Duchess find themselves making their way down Shaftesbury Avenue to check it out.

Shaftesbury Avenue.jpg

The story of Nell Gwynn and Charles II strikes a sympathetic chord with DonQui’s attitude to life. As the blurb from the theatre says:

Welcome to England, 1660. The Puritans have been sent packing as Charles II makes his triumphal return to London following the restoration of the monarchy. After years in France, the King brings with him an appreciation for the bawdy and the boisterous. Meanwhile, the young Nell Gwynn is selling oranges on Drury Lane. Nothing will ever be the same again.


Apollo stage set.jpg

DonQui thinks the play is great fun, well cast, well acted and well directed. There is just the right amount of humour and raunchiness interlacing the true story which is delivered with touches of real emotion.

The fully packed house love it, as does DonQui.

Gemma Arterton.jpg

Gemma Arterton is utterly fantastic as Nell, fully living up to the original Nell Gwynn’s stage performance as described by Samuel Pepys:

But so great performance of a comical part was never, I believe, in the world before as Nell do this, both as a mad girl, then most and best of all when she comes in like a young gallant; and hath the notions and carriage of a spark the most that ever I saw any man have. It makes me, I confess, admire her.


DonQui must also confess to admire Gemma Arterton, even since watching her in the excellent re-make of St Trinians.


The character of Nancy is also brilliantly played by Michele Dotrice, best known as the long-suffering wife in the 70s TV series ’Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. DonQui thinks that she delivers one of the best comic moments through perfect timing and just a look.

Nell Gwynn.jpg

DonQui thoroughly enjoyed himself and highly recommends trying to get hold of tickets.