Judging by some of the comments I have read elsewhere, this West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Don Quixote (which uses what has been described as a re-imagination of Cervantes' novel written by Pablo Ley and Colin Teevan) is not to everyone's taste. I make no apologies for my own high opinion of it, however, for this reaction was clearly shared by my fellow audience members, who gave the cast a very enthusiastic reception indeed in the curtain calls. Set firmly in the twenty-first century (even down to its clever contemporary take on what is probably the most famous episode in the book) the production nonetheless successfully captures the spirit of the seventeenth century original. That it does this in a surreal way, and one which combines spoken text, physical theatre, music and video, has clearly disconcerted some, but I would argue that this approach reflects, as it is surely intended to do, the fantastical nature of the novel. Moreover it creates an atmosphere in which the audience really does have no idea what is going to happen next, adding greatly to the excitement of the occasion. Leading the cast of ten is Greg Hicks, who gives his usual magnificent performance in the title role, clearly relishing its more physical elements and depicting Don Quixote's warmth and charm as well as the seriousness with which he undertakes his knightly quests and the dignity with which he invariably responds to the taunts and tricks of others. His portrayal makes us question the boundaries between reality and illusion and between sanity and madness, and he captures the tragedy not only of Don Quixote's death but also of the disillusionment which precedes it. Tony Bell gives a funny and heart-warming performance as Sancho Panza, who may have initially accompanied Don Quixote on his adventures in the hope of personal gain, but whose loyalty to his master eventually leads him to a true understanding of his philosophy; and it is clear they come to regard each other with a mutual affection. The rest of the cast play a multiplicity of roles with great enthusiasm, changing characters as easily as they change costumes. It is not necessary to know the book in detail to enjoy the show, but some idea of the story, and of the history of the novel's composition, will give an added dimension to your appreciation of it. Above all, though, it should be approached in the eclectic and adventurous spirit in which it is grounded; if you can accept it on its own terms you will be rewarded with a theatrical experience that is not only unusual but also superbly staged and performed. - Janet Polson
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