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Chiara D'Anna On ... Bringing Don Quixote to Peckham

Panta Rei Theatre Collective are currently presenting their latest show, Rocinante! Rocinante!, in the Bussey Building in Peckham (recent home of the Royal Court's Theatre Local scheme).

Here, Panta Rei's Chiara D'Anna tells us more about the project, which is billed as a "site specific, promenade journey through the mind of Don Quixote de la Mancha".

It’s all about Peckham these days. Young theatre makers: get down there, and come see what’s on offer.

The CLF Art Cafe in the “heart” of Peckham is an ex-factory converted into art space and home to the Royal Court’s Theatre Local. This vibrant hub for visual artists, bands, DJs and theatre makers has even been compared to Paris’ Montmartre (without irony) by The Independent.

My company, Panta Rei, are the second company to perform in this space after the Royal Court (no pressure, then). With complete freedom to do what we want, it’s a great challenge for a new theatre company like ours; enough space to let our imaginations run wild, and by implication, enough rope to hang ourselves. For us, a new adventure had just begun: drink in the magic world of the site-specific project.

Rising to the occasion, our piece looks at madness and the dividing line between sanity and insanity, taking inspiration from those two, hardly known, minor, little foot notes of world literature (perhaps you’ve heard of them): Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ambitious, much?

Don’t worry. We’re not trying to stage both at the same time (at least, not on this budget). We aim to work around themes and perspectives on madness raised in each. We decided the piece was to be staged in promenade, and we began by piecing together the various worlds inhabited by our real and surreal characters: a cemetery at night, the corridors of a lunatic asylum by day, a beautiful and calming vision of the ocean, a mountain river emerging from memories or dreams. Like I say, Peckham really is changing these days.

Maybe we caught a bit of the madness on the way. Once the finances could go no further, our imaginations had to do the rest of the stretching. The industrial architecture of the venue creates an interesting contrast with the rural landscape of La Mancha, and in that a world of new opportunities. Our set and costumes are inspired by from the powerful and visceral work of Hieronymus Bosch. This fitted perfectly with the decadent and derelict features of the space.

Another powerful and visceral aspect was found in the heating, which disappeared when we needed it most over the last ten days! I’m pleased to say its back now, there’s only so much one electric kettle can do to heat a warehouse... Powerful singing from the multi denominational religious ceremonies using the space next door on Sundays also makes for a rich and strange accompaniment when piecing together a seventeenth century Spanish graveyard. It certainly felt like we were being caught in our own fictions from time to time.

However, heating on, there is a corner of Peckham now ready to welcome audiences and lead them into a world of dreams, visions and hallucinations through the restless mind of Don Quixote. How about you come see for yourself?

Rocinante! Rocinante! continues until 2 March 2012


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