The magic of theatre at its very best

2010-02-18 00:00


Man of La Mancha

Catalina Theatre, Durban

IF you enjoy good theatre then you simply have to book your seat for the fabulous musical, Man of La ­Mancha, at the Catalina Theatre.

Director Themi Venturas has ­remained true to the Dale Wasserman original, with one small difference — he starts the action in the backyard of the Ballito Police Station, rather than a prison in Seville.

Three drama students have been thrown in jail following a raid at the Ballito rage and soon find themselves targeted by the hardened criminals and prostitutes, who like them, are waiting to be interrogated by the ­police.

In an effort to protect themselves and their belongings the students agree to take part in a mock trial. And, as their defence, tell the tale of Don Quixote and his fight for justice, purity, freedom and love. In the original version, the protagonists told the same tale prior to their appearance before the Spanish ­Inquisition.

Cobus Venter, who plays one of the students, encourages the other inmates to get involved in the story of the eccentric squire, Alonso Quijana, who takes on the persona of the wannabee knight, Don Quixote (also played by Venter).

Accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho (played by Liam Magner, who really gets his teeth into this sweet and funny character), he charges at windmills believing they are giants and mistakes a distinctly dodgy pub for a castle and its landlord for an aristocrat.

Venter, who was last seen in My Fair Lady at the Playhouse, has a great voice and used it well in numbers such as Dulcinea and, probably the musical’s best-known song, Dream the Impossible Dream. He ­also brings a deep poignancy to the scene when Quixote holds vigil ­before being knighted.

During his stay at the inn, Quixote encounters Aldonza (Caitlin Kilburn), a lowly kitchen maid and prostitute, who he mistakes for a high-born lady. Kilburn, who hails from ­Pietermaritzburg, was superb as the quick-witted and even quicker tongued vixen, who cannot understand why Quixote behaves the way he does, but still finds herself drawn to this eccentric man. And, ultimately, it is Aldonza, who reminds him of his dreams of a better world, when his family and friends would prefer him to live in the real one.

Another young actor deserving of praise is Grant Jacobs, who was ­dignified and gentle as the Padre, who tries to help his old friend to return home to his family.

That said, there were no bad performances on the night. The young cast acquitted themselves well, and the musicians — Luke Holder, Demi Fernandez and Judith Hawthorne — ensured that the score was given full justice.

But one of the things I loved most about this production was how ­Venturas and the cast made use of ordinary every day objects. Mops and brooms became swords and lances, a metal bowl became a helmet, and two wooden trestles became Quixote and Sancho’s trusty steeds. It was the magic of theatre at its very best.

Venturas has “dreamed the impossible dream” with his staging of Man of La Mancha and the result is truly wonderful. Don’t miss it.

Man of La Mancha runs until March 7. Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, 5 pm on Saturday and 2 pm and 6 pm on Sunday. Tickets: R90 on the Catalina booking line at 073 725 7381.

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