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Ay! QuiXote

Teatro Malandro, after Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Barbican
(2003)

Last year, Don Quixote was voted the best novel ever in one of those increasingly common surveys of popular taste. At least it made a change from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

As part of BITE:03, the Swiss company Teatro Malandro brings a physical theatre meditation on the book to England under their Colombian auteur, Omar Porras. This run is a feast of light and movement, very carefully choreographed. It takes as its starting point Cervantes' novel and produces an assortment of scenes based, sometimes loosely, on some of the best stories. As such, it may be difficult for those who do not know the book to follow and understand the plot.

The performances of the actors playing Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are both excellent, full of energy and life and, particularly in the latter case, much dumb wit.

Despite the text, which is partly in French and partly in Spanish with subtitles, this is like nothing so much as a cartoon film (or perhaps a ballet), with great pace and much to look at. It is not in any way text driven and Porras seems far more concerned with his own work than a faithful reproduction of the novel. This is not necessarily a bad thing and on a couple of occasions, the work achieves greatness.

The undoubted highlight is the duel between our hero, the Knight of the Sad Countenance and his rival, the Knight of the Mirrors. This is reproduced to stunning effect on stage as something closely akin to an extract from Star Wars.

Synthesising words, music, dance, movement and silhouettes, Ay! QuiXote is a spectacle that provides much for the lovers of physical theatre to enjoy. However it may, at times, leave some of those who voted for Don Quixote as the greatest novel ever, baffled.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher