In collaboration with Axis Theatre Company
Don Quixote
Based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes

Dates and Venues 23 September – 23 October 2010, (Tues. at 7:30pm, Wed – Sat at 8 pm, with matinees Wed, Sat & Sun at 2pm) | Granville Island Stage

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

Filled with delightful twists and satiric turns, the Arts Club production of Don Quixote takes its audience through several choice sections of Cervantes' picaresque romp in a manner that manages to convey a delicious sampling of its ribald and raunchy misadventures, its rollicking tone, and its fanciful philosophical ideology. Keen in his knight's armour as a wit is sharp during a wedding toast, the talented Peter Anderson leads the inimitable Michel Perron as Sancho on a voyage to decentre, for all their worth. The deceptively small cast from the Centaur Theatre Company, who play a preponderance of meaty roles, roil the plot with vigorous regularity. Amusingly enough, it is seldom clear just who is leading whom, even after the last joust is played.

Stage lights come up on a large wooden chair to start the play. A wiry bookish Don Quixote sits reading in rapt wonder. Seldom has the act of reading been portrayed with such vigour and colourful variety on stage. You'll know what I mean when you see it. Colin Heath and Peter Anderson have crafted a clever adaptation of the misadventures of Quixote, played superbly by Anderson, and his earthy squire, Sancho Panza, and it has been brought wonderfully to life by Axis Theatre and the Centaur Company.

Laughs abound as Quixote's delusions cause him to mistake a roadside tavern for a castle. Local girls looking for action appear to be noble ladies who need their honour defended. He draws his sword, and fights ensue. Deterred by a wench who convinces him to give up his sword so that he may be dubbed, he ends up being given a sound drubbing. I liked the physical comedy - and there is plenty of it here - just as much as I enjoyed the clever wordplay - and there is much to hear.

Another of the many amusing features of this play arises from David Roberts' clever use of set & props. Smoke and mirrors are natural devices for a play that deals so deftly with schisms between reality and appearances, truth and illusion, fantasy and deception. Roberts makes ample use of both smoke and mirrors, and puppetry and shadow-puppets. One of the most delicious pieces of irony involves the identity of the puppet-master. You need to see this to appreciate it. It begs the question about who is the real puppet-master.

Perhaps most striking among the play's fine features are Melody Anderson's mask designs. In many cases, the finely crafted facial features are the epitome of exquisite caricature. Especially she of the unsurpassed aquiline nose, and he of the corpulent jowl: They of the aristocracy who honour the quixotic knight errant for their sport and then proceed to debunk his grandiosity.

There are too many funny moments to recount, and many more engaging ideas about what passes for real and what passes muster as facade in this worldly stage play. Particularly playful is the deconstructive banter about the Cervantes novel that comes to the fore in the dialogue after the intermission. Many of you will have seen Man of La Mancha. Well, there is an impossible dream being dreamed nightly at the Granville Island Stage this month, and I would be remiss if I didn't warn you that you need to be prepared to see more than you bargained for of that knightly vision. But then again, what's real and what's illusion? Perhaps this play is divine madness. All I know is you'd be mad to miss it.

© 2010 Roger Wayne Eberle