Edinburgh 2013: Don Quichotte Du Trocadéro, Festival Theatre, review
Colourful, fun and danced with gusto, it isn’t difficult to see why José Montalvo’s piece is a crowd-pleaser, writes Mark Brown.
This year’s Edinburgh International Festival programme has been nothing if not diverse. Some shows (such as Opéra de Lyon’s experimental Fidelio and LA Dance Project’s performance of Merce Cunningham’s avant-garde evergreen Winterbranch) have generated audible consternation in sections of the audience, whilst others have been cheered to the rafters.
Franco-Spanish choreographer José Montalvo’s Don Quichotte du Trocadéro belongs emphatically in the latter category. Relocating Cervantes’ chivalrous man of La Mancha to contemporary Paris, the piece offers a varied smorgasbord of dance and musical styles, illustrated by projected film and animation.
Here the Don (played by actor Patrice Thibaud) is a non-dancer abroad. The Parisians he encounters are the young and the beautiful, ranging from classical ballerinas to hip hop kids breakdancing in Metro stations.
Thibaud’s Quichotte – a middle-aged man who wears jeans and training shoes, and has a paunch – owes at least as much to the heroes of comic silent cinema, such as Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, as he does to the father of Spanish literature. The show is built around the actor’s self-deprecating comedy.
In one moment, a computer-generated windmill metamorphoses into a huge, projected version of Quichotte, which he prepares to fight. In another, the would-be knight is reduced from riding a horse to making his way around the Metro on a donkey. Thibaud’s hapless efforts to take part in the choreography only serve to endear him to the audience even more.
However, in the midst of this light comedy, there is at least one serious point in the production; namely, a celebration of the multiculturalism of modern-day Paris. As dancers pair off against each other, with West African music and song coming against Flamenco, hip hop against ballet, this could be London or New York as easily as the French capital.
Colourful, fun and danced with tremendous ability and gusto, it isn’t difficult to see why this piece is a crowd-pleaser. Yet, in a Festival in which some of the more challenging work has met with resistance from elements of the public, one can’t help but feel that Montalvo makes life too easy for himself.
The heavy reliance upon film and animation frustrates, and the contrasts between different cultural styles become repetitive. Ultimately, the show is the theatrical equivalent of eating a piece of cake; pleasurable at the time, but soon forgotten.
Ends Saturday August 31. For further information, visit: eif.co.uk
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on August 30, 2013:
© Mark Brown