EIF 2013: Don Quichotte du Trocadéro Review

Edinburgh Festival review
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Théatre National de Chailot
José Montalvo (choreography, scenography and video conception), Patrice Thibaud (artistic associate)
Théatre National de Chailot
Running time

What should you do if two men walk on stage, then, for no apparent reason whatsoever, one of them suddenly opens his enormous mouth and wails like an insane banshee at the audience? And then, the other one follows, belting out competitively with an almightily terrific yell, even louder? Well? You’re obviously watching a performance of José Montalvo’s “Don Quichotte du Trocadéro” and my advice is either stick it out, or immediately leave.

This slickly sequenced set of absurdities is loosely inspired by Cervantes classic novel "Don Quixote”. It appropriately adopts the idea of characters wandering absurdly around (one imagines with the craziest of notions in their heads) nippily bumping into all manner of bizarre scenarios.

These are enlivened by explosions of tap-dancing, ballet, flamenco, rapping and contemporary dance, juxtaposed with slapstick, mime, the odd howling scream and a series of flying circus acts. Were that not variety enough, a vast cinema screen blasts fast-paced interjections of the yet even whackier.

After a flashy dose of this lot, just close your eyes for a split second and you’ll easily imagine that you are in fact Don Quixote himself, believing with no doubt that you are indeed a knight, galloping frolickingly around La Mancha in search of adventure – and that all is real. For me, this overall concept is the more effective of the various connections with Cervantes that the performance presents. 

It is this concept that evokes far more than, for example, the cinematic imagery of windmills turning into giants (though of course we needed those too). Like Don Quixote – basically sane but with obsessions that transform reality – the rapidly intense journey through the performance makes us feel disoriented. It keeps on going, on and on, and it won’t stop, creating a hysterical sense of the delirious, which is so fast-paced it enables the ridiculous to become believable.

For me, and for the audience around (many of whom looked forgivably puzzled, without a clue as what was going on), the duration was too long. Worse still, it overran by 25 minutes, leaving us itching to leap out to the nearest bar to down a calming dram of whisky. It was fun, flashy and thrilling at times – but this piece attracted an excitingly mixed crowd and we could have done with less of it. Less is more!

EIF perfs: 29, 30, 31 Aug