Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Don Quixote

Adapted by James Fenton
Garrick Theatre, London

If you struggle to read books thicker than your thumb, the RSC’s entertaining adaptation of Don Quixote could be just the ticket. With a lively script by James Fenton and lovely songs, it compresses the 1,000-page sprawl of Cervantes’s novel into a tight 2 ½ hours. With his equine, affronted features, David Threlfall makes a terrific Don, the semi-senile upper-class twit convinced he’s a knight errant who embarks on a quest — as his stout, redoubtable squire Sancho Panza (Rufus Hound) confusedly puts it — to “kill damsels and rescue giants in distress”. Hound is a pleasant presence. The windmills that our hero misidentifies as giants are imposingly staged. But the mugging of the supporting cast forces laughs that would be better waited for. Straighter faces could also strengthen the main theme, which is that we all walk in delusion, creating our own reality. When the fire alarm was triggered during an on-stage prank, I wasn’t sure, and still don’t know, if it was real or part of the show. Either way, it got the point across.