Written by Ben Lewis
Directed by Lu Kemp
Living a relatively quiet middle-class lifestyle amidst the trinkets and collectables which faintly glitter with promise and memory, Don, an intelligent, eccentric gentleman of a growing age from Clackmannanshire, is peppered with the natterings and intrusions of his family and care-workers. They fret over him with offers of biscuits and soups, teas, and Bargain Hunt– when all he wants is to be left alone. And despite concerns, is more than capable of fending for himself.
You know, despite the infantry pike skewered into the still smoking television.
The coming-of-age narrative is long overdue for a reshuffle. And with an accurately self-aggrandising tag of a ‘coming-of-old-age’ story experience, Don Quixote finds a picture-perfect description with Ben Lewis and Lu Kemp’s production. And as the cantankerous knight arises once more into the humdrum of suburbia to further blur the border of eloquent delusion in this reimagining of the Miguel de Cervantes’s epic Spanish novel El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.
This is mined and polished to an inscrutable degree for every ounce of humour and pathos extracted, Don Quixote The Man of Clackmannanshire is the conceptual jewel from Ben Lewis – imperfections and all. Without question, the finest knight of the realm, Benny Young rises to the role with a mental and physical gusto the envy of the younger generations he berates. The pacing of his riposte to relatives and adversaries, ranging from assisted suicide gags, the dangers of Wind Turbines, and a rather side-splitting remark at wooing women underline the sophisticated emotions Young plays the role.
Perhaps, there is just time for one final adventure in Douglas’ life. A trial of fury and infamy that Douglas may champion; to protect the 21st century from its own gluttonous apathy. A noble cause, for a noble man, with an even nobler (and motorised) steed. But he requires one final aspect – a squire. Reimagining Cervantes’s towering masterpiece of fanciful comedic adventure, Douglas takes it upon himself to educate his nephew in the ways of nobility and take a mighty stab at life – away from the humdrum of retail working and endless phone scrolling.
Sean Connor brings an element of droll mundanity against his uncle’s more idealistic tactics though the pair don’t precisely get very far or run into any genuine threat: to say their adventure was successful would be, well, only mildly delusional. But Connor’s participation as the sincerity, the bridge between an older and new generation, who have a unique understanding of being under-estimated, makes for a touching performance which counteracts the more physical and obvious humour Connor has within the script.
There’s no finer transitional sequence than that of a musical one, Kemp’s production rallying around the inclusion of live flamenco performance duo Paddy Anderson and Pablo Dominguez – an elegant addition to the production, and tie to the text’s foundations. The fantastical nature it presents, as onlookers every-so-often dipping their toes into Douglas’ narrative makes for a consistent reminder of the classical elements of the show, and the significant humour and movements.
Macdougall, Winter and Sawyerr have much more to work with from the emotional front, conveying the stresses of those within the care industry and family members who struggle with what is best for a relative and what is easiest for themselves. There’s a profound vision in gazing at our contemporary attitudes and frustrations in growing older. Colliding with an ageing population, the complications of maintaining the dignity and care of our loved ones as they age with comes to fruition rather strikingly.
Through the fantastical-tinted spectacles, the emergence of something which stretches beyond a jovial comedy emerges – a piece on the tremendous prejudices and graces of ageing. Kemp and Lewis illustrate, through a barmy brilliance of a show, the stretched-thin offerings and means of a society that struggles in managing the expressions of older generations under enormous pressures and weights to find a delicate balance. But a balance Don Quixote finds in its humorous endeavour and joyful update of Cervantes classic.
Runs at Dundee Rep until 15 October 2002, then tours to Perth Theatre I Image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan