Don Quixote was once voted the “best literary work ever written”. The sprawling epic tells the tale of an impressionable country gentleman who, after reading books on chivalry, decides to become a knight-errant. The writer, Miguel de Cervantes, was a poet, playwright, tax-collector, invalided soldier, former slave and occasional vagrant who conceived of his magnum opus whilst in prison for penury. Tom Frankland and Keir Cooper, in association with Ultimo Comboio, have used this as inspiration for a chaotically vivifying piece of theatre with hidden edge.
The show utilises simple multimedia, live music and story-telling to create a multidimensional world. The play opens with projected captions and shadow puppetry which transport the audience to the arid lands of La Mancha. It then proceeds through what seem like meandering digressions of slightly mawkish and unrelated stories. However, in an epiphanic volta of anarchic punk rock and uncoiled rage, it becomes a savage denunciation of cynicism and a lionised defence of idealism. The ostensible vagaries of the plot are in fact fastidiously constructed (metatheatre to mirror metafiction) and the point becomes not the Don Quixote of the novel but our real Don Quixote’s, like Cervantes, who are sadly few and far between.