Delivered in a mixture of Spanish and English, Panta Rei Theatre Collective’s imaginative and surreal production of Don Quixote! Don Quixote! is brought to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by an international troupe of performers. The production tells the story of Don Quixote seeking his princess, accompanied by his gallant but slightly simple farm-hand Sancho. With donkey and horse in tow, they are met with a series of strange and surreal encounters with the dead and the devil. They meet two grave diggers, who philosophise about the difference between death and life and how it all seems to be useless when it all feels the same. Our heroes face their fears and run into the night, each with head held high and chest out, on a quest into the unknown.
Don Quixote! Don Quixote! is a difficult performance for an audience who may not feel comfortable with narrative that jumps between Spanish and English, speeches and commentary. Both this and the episodic nature of the production mean that at times, the audience must trust that whilst they may not immediately understand all that is taking place, clarity will emerge. In the meantime, there is a wealth of visual stimulus to tantalise the eye. We see a veiled princess dressed in white float across the stage, and a donkey and horse realised as possibly some of the best animal performances that don’t require a puppet. All of this is held together with an aesthetic that feels somehow connected to the earth, between life and death.
The narrative, whilst fragmented and at times hard to follow, allows your imagination to take flight. The performers’ trained and skilled physical portrayal of quirky characters is a delight to watch. When the performance works there is a compelling nature to the piece, calling upon our understanding of love and loss. This is wonderfully realised against the comedic and tragic gravediggers, who add a much needed humour to the piece.
Don Quixote! Don Quixote! is imaginative and engaging, with a compelling and twisting narrative that will make an audience both laugh and cry. If you’re looking for something different from the usual comedy at the Pleasance, then Don Quixote! Don Quixote! will certainly challenge you; go with it and you might be surprised by what you discover.
**** – 4 Stars
Don Quixote! Don Quixote! is playing at the Pleasance Dome as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27th August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.