BWW Reviews: ROCINANTE! ROCINANTE!, The CLF Theatre, February 15 2012
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza pitch up in a cemetery only to bump into the cynical gravediggers from Hamlet. As death surrounds them, all four begin to lose their grip on reality and are only brought back from the stuff of nightmares by their faithful steeds, Donkey and the eponymous Rocinante. Unlike the tortured souls of the humans, the beasts of burden lack the imagination to conjure up hell and are able to keep feet and brain on Terra Firma.
Panta Rei Theatre's site specific production is perfectly suited to The CLF Theatre's venue on the top floor of the Bussey Building in deepest Peckham (until 2 March). Presented as a promenade piece (and there's quite a bit of promenading up the steps before the action starts) the cast move in and around the audience in a hollow hall of a space that constantly quivers as light and shadow (not to mention the low rumble of nearby trains) disorient and distract. Slowly, inevitably, a vision of Hell takes hold of our senses - eyes and ears assaulted and the chill biting. With plenty of Spanish mixed into the English dialogue, the play is at its strongest when considered as a series of pictures: grotesque; occasionally beautiful; often the stuff of nightmares.
Though there are a few laughs and we are reminded of the mundane nature of life by a mother tending to her baby and clearing up after Don Quixote and Sancho's escapades have left twigs and soil where they shoudn't be, the overall impression is one of being inside a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. Chiara D'Anna's production is not something one would go to see to wind down after a long day at the office, but it catches a look, a feeling, an environment of unease that percolates sufficiently through the mind to leave one eyeing the alleyways of South London just a little warily in case a couple of absurd fantasists are hiding there, with only a horse and a donkey to connect them with the castles of consumerism and windmills of corporatism that present a different kind of nightmare for a different age.