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