Like Shakespeare, Voltaire or Goethe, Miguel de Cervantes is a name that you should, at least, pretend to recognise (Aw yeah, I love Ben Jonson’s … haikus?). His 17th Century Don Quixote seems nevertheless, an unusual choice for student drama. Director Mattia Marrioti and one of the largest casts I’ve ever seen clearly weren’t daunted. Amid their minimal Venue 1 set, a voice modifier and eclectic mix of music, lighting and costume, I had stepped, unwittingly, into a drunken Tim Burton film.
The show got off to a cracking start, as Don Quixote de La Mancha’s (Dominic Kimberlin) grandiosity contrasted well with pink Chullo-wearing, squealing Sancho Panza (Collin Looch). Physical humour was crucial throughout: I’m still in shock from having seen Don Quixote’s horse in flashing bunny ears grind the audience, and a silent, umbrella-wielding bishop glide around.
A cacophony of 8-bit, bubble-gum pop and classical music, and costumes apparently crafted from anything but clothing had me spellbound for the first Act. Particularly fab were unsettling Master Nicholas (Seamus Hargrave) and Chris Cannell’s voice-overs. But it’s always nice to see a cast, especially given its size, work so coherently together.
Frankly, the magic wore off in Act 2: Spanish Golden Age literature can talk the hind legs off a Don Quixote (I’m here all week, guys). Tired, exaggerated humour began to undermine some deeper monologues, and the crucial historical context was lost behind a neon facemask of rainbow dust/psychosis. Far cleverer were the moments of self-controlled cynicism (read: Peter Von Zahnd as the horse). All in all, however, it was a valiant and exceptionally original reworking of Cervantes’s classic.
I caught a moment with director Mattia Morrioti after the show.
So how long was this in the making?
Not very long – we did a few rehearsals before the break, but not many in Venue 1. We did three here, starting Friday!
Wow, that’s not long at all. Are you pleased with how it’s gone?
Yeah, I’d say. You can always be more … did you notice any mess? No? The best thing is not to make no mess, but to make mess and exaggerate things so much that it doesn’t seem like mess.
Why did you decide to do Don Quixote?
I wanted to do a show with a very serious character and another one who is completely crazy; I went to China this summer, and there I saw Chinese Opera. And on the plane I saw a fantastic movie which I recommend to you and your readers, which is called Lost in Thailand. It’s a Chinese blockbuster, a very, very cheap comedy, and I was inspired.
There’s such an eclectic mixture of different sights and sounds. Was that important for you?
Yeah, I agree. It’s probably because I’m a bit deaf, so I tend to prefer the visual over the auditory. The visual is important in a space like Venue 1. It’s eclectic because I put in everything that I like all together, and if it fits, that’s great.
Congratulations: hats, feather boas and clown noses off to everyone involved!