year marks the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes' world famous
masterpiece Don Quixote. But as Spanish Interludes at the Burton
Taylor shows, this great man's talents weren't exhausted in the
writing of his epic novel.
newly-established Playwriting and Dramaturgy society have chosen
and translated three of the author's 'entremeses'. These brief farcical
sketches, designed to be performed between the acts of a main play,
all brim with song, slapstick and sharp satire.
of Cervantes' work have always faced the daunting task of capturing
the author's puns and witty remarks, which trot along as fast as
Quixote's faithful nag, Rocinante. The Playwriting and Dramaturgy
have done an admirable job in keeping the bawdiness and bite of
the original texts. Their accessible, free-flowing interpretation
loses none of the author's subversion and self-mocking irony.
first of the three interludes, The Marvellous Puppet Show (El retablo
de las maravillas), combines pure farce with an uncomfortably accurate
observation of conformity and religious intolerance. On the busy
stage the cast members have to fight for the audience's attention.
Most of the highly exaggerated characters are projected with confidence
and comic timing. However the protagonists' stage presence is such
that the more minor characters are sometimes unconvincing in comparison.
Jealous Old Man (El viejo celoso) follows up next. The scowling,
phlegmatic 70-year-old, is wonderfully captured by an energetic
Paul Tosio. Almost exhausting to watch, Tosio fleshes out every
single line of Cervantes' script and deservedly receives the audience's
gales of laughter following his character Cañizares' gruff
admission that he is even jealous of the skirts which brush against
his young wife's legs. Beth Mc Leod as Ceñizares' wife Lorenza
does not let herself be overshadowed by Tosio's larger-than-life
performance. She brings a cheeky feminine confidence to her role
as the frustrated victim of a social marriage.
final interlude, The Watchdog (La guarda cuidadosa), finds Tosio
once again apparently deriving great enjoyment from his enthusiastic
portrayal of a rather grotesque character. He is the soldier, vying
for the attention of the lovely Cristina (Elizabeth Bogie). However
he has a rival in the form of a Señor Gherkin, the Sexton
(Alexis Gallagher). The latter is also besotted with the girl, suggestively
stating that he thinks of her every time he rings his bells. In
the church, of course.
of the three short plays cumulates in a lively release of the dramatic
tension through song and dance. The accompanying music has been
composed specially by members of the group, and the Spanish rhythms
help root the performance in the culture of Cervantes' birthplace.
Interludes is overall a hugely impressive creative feat, which has
clearly required many hours of hard work translating, composing,
interpreting and rehearsing. "What madness and foolishness!"
cries one of the characters as the farce unfolds in The Jealous
Old Man. But the Playwriting and Dramaturgy Society were certainly
not foolish to attempt to bring Cervantes' genius to a new audience.
Here's hoping that through them, Oxford audiences will be treated
to many more gems of world theatre in the future.
views expressed in these comments are those of the contributor's
and not the BBC.